Rubbing Shoulders with a Gritty World

Jesus commands us to be salt and light in this world, a task very hard to do.  This is because of the almost seven billion other people who live on this planet, the ones we bump into everyday.

Even though we believers have the incredible indwelling of the Holy Spirit available to empower us to be a “Christ-like one” in front of them, we usually allow the world to dictate how we roll—and that’s usually down in the grime with them. Those folks are down in the dirt because they can’t help it; we, however, can.

I use myself as a prime example.  Last Saturday I went to do my first errand, the grocery store.  I picked up a few items, headed for the, you guessed it, the express line.  There were fewer people in my line and, hey, each only had a few things—I’d get in and out quicker, right?  Wrong.  One by one, the people in the express line in front of me each had a problem.  One dear lady couldn’t get her credit card to swipe.  Another took her blessed time in handwriting a check for her groceries.   Another decided he really didn’t want one or two items after all, and could the nice cashier take it off his bill?  I breathed deeply, rolled my eyes, and tried to take it in stride.

Then I drove down the 15-501 bypass to my next destination, merging into the fast lane.  I’m staying just ten miles above the speed limit, passing up some major turtles in the slow lane.  I was zipping along, doing great, until a big black pick-up truck with some major attitude decides I’m not going fast enough in the fast lane for him.  I can tell this by the way he hangs on my bumper.  So I look for a safe opportunity to get out of his way, but I’ve still got a bank of cars on my right.  I finally see my break coming, plan my move.  I flip my turn signal on to get over, look in my rearview, and notice he’s gone.

It’s then that I hear him.  Now he’s in the right lane, barreling down, racing to get ahead of me.  Just about the time we reach another turtle in the right lane, the humongous truck whips over in the fast lane just ahead of me, missing me by inches, giving me a discourteous salute as he leaves me in his dust.  I would like to say I handled that situation correctly.  But I didn’t. My patience was pretty thin by now. I must admit I said a few unkind things about the thoughtless driver who almost bought the farm and took me along with him.

Next I dashed into Target. I did a quick grab-by of an armful of things and what I thought were a couple of tasteful graduation cards and headed to the checkout.  Again, I chose what I thought was the shortest line. The two college-age young ladies in front of me loaded their various picnic items onto the conveyor belt, leaving their shopping cart to clog the very back of the aisle where I was, juggling my bulky items. They never moved the cart to the opposite end where they were both bagging groceries, each carrying on separate conversations with their cell phones glued to their ears.  Okay, they’re distracted, I think.

The cashier rings up the total.  At that exact moment, one girl turns to the other in wide-eyed innocence, saying, “Oh, you know, I forgot the beer.”  She squeezes past the cart that’s still blocking the way, squeezes past me with my arms full, and saunters out toward the grocery section of the store.

The cashier asks the second girl for the money and she calmly nods in the general direction of the first.  She tells the cashier her friend’s going to pay. Besides, she’ll be right back, it shouldn’t take too long.  She stands on tiptoe, occasionally looking for her forgetful friend, still chattering away incessantly on her phone. The cashier eyes those bags upon bags of groceries, and decides right then and there that she’s not going to cancel the order and have all that work to do for the second time.

So there we stand, the four of us (there is now another woman behind me).  We wait. The cashier and young woman never meet my eyes, never bother to acknowledge that there’s going to be a delay, sorry about that.

That’s it—I snap.  I suddenly shove the cart way forward with my hip; I can’t push it with my hands because I might drop something I’m holding and break it.  My face is red-hot, I feel my blood pressure rise, and everyone around can now tell that I am not amused.  I release my items to the belt with a thump.  The first girl finally takes the hint, silently pulls the cart the rest of the way to the end, finally starts loading her groceries.  I keep fuming and glancing at my watch, because I know I have better things to do with my Saturday instead of standing in line at Target.

The second girl flits up nonchalantly, pushing past me, past her friend, rings up her twelve-pack, pays for the whole kit and caboodle, and finally leaves.  I was still entertaining unpleasant thoughts about the inconsiderate duo as I crossed over into the parking lot.

Within the confines of my car on the way home (and in the slow lane, I might add) the Lord nudged me.  I am a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, graciously forgiven, washed clean by the blood of the Lamb, privileged to live within the abundance of His blessings—but sadly, I couldn’t endure one afternoon of rubbing shoulders with the world before I became just like them.  I had to confess my sin right then and there.

In each situation, I failed.  I didn’t see those people through Holy Spirit eyes.  I just saw my “rights” being violated.  That’s the problem with being in the world—we often get dirty.  Our thoughts, our actions slowly degenerate into something quite different than we intended.  It’s usually about that point we raise a defiant fist and declare “We ain’t gonna take it no more!”

We cannot be salt and light by ourselves, admit it.  That’s why Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to indwell us, to empower us.  But we have to be willing to listen to His still, small voice, to follow His lead, and to be obedient.

Let’s be Christ followers and not dirt wallowers.  It’s our choice.

Lookin’ up,

Sislyn/Ps. 19:1

There’s More To This Life

Running, running, running.  And always managing to be behind.  Even though my days of diapers and day-to-day commuting are a thing of the past, there’s always an arm-long list in front of me, many of the items ministry-related.  Did I email so-and-so to ask about the bridal shower?  Did I call so-and-so and invite her child to the new children’s class I’m teaching?  Did I let so-and-so know I’ve been missing them a couple of weeks in choir?  I feel like I’m really making progress when I get a couple of things done and am empowered to charge onto my next to-do.  I often am validated by *the list* and can base my self-worth by what has or hasn’t been checked off on it.

And then I hear that still, small voice. . . My Father says Come and spend time with Me.  Wait a minute, Lord . . . I’m coming.  But can’t I whip up this batch of cookies for Awanas, or reword that paragraph I wrote yesterday, or write down the brilliant lesson plan for next week, first?

With a sweet tug of the Spirit, He calls to me.  I don’t want to be a check in your “Done That” column.  I want more.  Come away with Me, and let Me show you more.  And you know, He does, when I stop and obey His voice.  I find that He loves me.  He delights in me.  Imagine that–?  A Creator Who wants more than anything in the universe to love, and be loved?

Lord, I’m so sorry for not consistently making You my delight . . . not beginning my day with You.  You are so worthy, so much more worthy of any adoration and praise and time that I could ever offer.  Thank You for loving me anyway (!), and keep on reminding me that the sum of “what I do” does not ever make me me . . . . It is by Your grace alone I live.

Lookin’ up,
Ps. 19:1