Sometimes we have really great days, and sometimes we have not-so-great days. It is important to maintain our sanity on all the days, but that can be easier said than done. I’m a Christian. That means I’m a follower of Christ that requires daily grace and mercy. It does not mean I always have it together and behave perfectly. On the not-so-great days, I require a little more grace and mercy. More like from minute-to-minute instead of day-to-day. I have a feeling I’m not alone in this. I’m a Christian and sometimes I do not act like it. There I said it…
Saturday mornings my husband and I always have a breakfast date followed by a trip for weekly grocery shopping. The date is precious even though it may not sound like it with the dreaded shopping trip. We just enjoy being together, whatever we’re doing. A few weeks ago was Memorial Day weekend and the store was super busy. We always do self-checkout. Every week we use the same register. Each week when something we purchase requires an associate approval, I greet Nancy, the associate, with a smile. She recognizes us as “regulars”. Nancy is a senior lady that works hard and has lots of spunk. The Saturday of Memorial Day weekend proved to be a challenge for the self-checkout technology. For whatever reason, the machine required an associate approval about every 2-3 items I scanned. Even though it was frustrating, I maintained my cool and smiled and chatted with each visit from Nancy. Poor Nancy was stretched thin. She had way too many registers to oversee for one person especially on a busy weekend. The busy store and the constant demand wore on her. Her normal, friendly bemoaning became an all-out blame game. She began to blame me for why things were not scanning or were requiring her approval. Of course, I immediately thought, “I do this every week on the same machine without issue, but okay.” I continued to maintain my smile. I stopped the positive chatting when she came over as her responses became increasingly mean. I was nearly reduced to walking away and leaving all the groceries there by about the 10th or 12th time an approval was required. I’m pretty sure Nancy had decided she was done with my grocery order too. Thank goodness another associate stepped in to help Nancy at this time. After 15-20 minutes of struggling and some partially thawed groceries, we were released from this grocery store prison. I walked away feeling good about the fact that I had held it together and remained kind to Nancy.
Nancy was struggling, and I was struggling. Blame was an easy way to cope I guess. How many times in life do we blame our struggles on the wrong person or thing? How often do we mistreat the kind person because it is safe? There’s no danger of the kind person lashing back at us. We all do it, but why? What does it accomplish?
I don’t know Nancy’s story, but I understand her frustration. She’s elderly and she still has to work so hard. She clearly didn’t have the support she needed and she was highly agitated about it. I suspect the lack of support is something she had told her manager about previously without any result. I looked at her and saw her plight with compassion. No, none of her issues were my fault, but I was safe. Sometimes as Christians, we have to choose love over being right or even justified. Sometimes, we have to reflect something other than ourselves. My inner self was feeling a little abused by her harsh comments, but it wasn’t personal. My struggles were not Nancy’s fault and I refused to take it out on her. I forgave her…or did I?
The following Saturday, we returned to the store for our normal weekly shopping. I still had the previous week’s experience tucked away in my mind, but I didn’t know it at the time. It had been a crazy week, but I was ready to tackle this shopping trip. As I approached the same register we use every week, I looked around for Nancy. While I was ready to approach this task with high hopes, in my mind I had decided I wasn’t taking Nancy’s junk this week. Okay…admittedly my week had provoked an unforgiveness and a pride issue in my heart. I didn’t blame Nancy, but clearly I was harboring something. My crazy week was just an excuse and my humanness in the situation obvious. I have not “arrived.” DUH! Did I mention my need for grace and mercy?
Anyway, the pride posture with which I approached the situation made all the difference in what happened next. As I began scanning items, all was well. Then I scanned about the 5th item and approval was required. “It’s okay”, I tell myself. It’s just one time, right? As I looked around again for Nancy, I realized she wasn’t there. They had two new associates working the self-checkout area. Okay…cool. No abuse today. An associate came right over and scanned the approval. We exchanged smiles as I thanked her. The scanning continued…beep…beep…BUZZZZ! Yep! Three items later, approval needed. Deep breath. Okay…this will get better. Approval granted. And so we continue…beep…BUZZZ! OMG! You have got to be kidding! I slammed a frozen meal onto the belt and threatened to walk away. No. I am not proud of my behavior. It was out of line and unacceptable. It was honestly nothing more than a grown-up temper tantrum. I should have had a better attitude. I should have stayed positive. Here’s the thing…if I had not come in with an offense and a prideful posture, I may have reacted differently, but I didn’t. The associate that came over was sweet and pleasant. Her name is Michelle and she has a mental disability. She seemed completely undeterred by my tension. She scanned her approval and then stayed over there to assist with the rest of the groceries while politely chatting about our grocery selection. As I saw her co-worker looking for her and giving her dirty looks, I suspect she was reprimanded for her attention to us. However, her calm, loving, kind approach was exactly what was needed. Michelle gave me the grace and mercy I needed in that moment. She gave me what I had given Nancy the week before.
Even when we behave badly, God always gives us what is needed, grace and mercy. The week before He used me to give it to Nancy. The next week, He used Michelle to provide grace and mercy to me. This is how we should be with one another. We truly do not know everyone’s mental state, life circumstances or struggles. Maybe instead of judgment, we could offer compassion. Instead of reacting, we could respond. Maybe instead of a dirty look, we could smile and say something kind. What would it cost you? What bad could come from choosing to extend the same grace and mercy you yourself need? Besides, just as I learned, we are not always in the situation of giving grace, mercy and compassion. Sometimes we are in the “need seat”.
I relayed this story to a friend of mine. Her response, “What?!?! You’re a Christian and you had a bad day?” Of course, she was being sarcastic. After the ugly behavior, I thought about the people that know me from church or ministry that may have seen me in that moment. I thought about how they may judge me or think less of me. While I am ashamed of the way I acted, I feel like it is important to share it. We need to embrace the real humans that we are. And yes, even Christians have bad days. I truly believe that most of us are maneuvering our way through this life the best we can. So let’s be kinder and gentler at every turn. We do not always act the way we should, but before you think less of someone or judge them, look at the situation or person through a filter of grace, mercy and compassion. You may just see your own need for the same!
“God’s grace and favor have been given to each of us as it was measured by Christ who gave it freely.” ~Ephesians 4:7 (ABV)
“Show mercy and compassion as your Father does.” ~Luke 6:36 (ABV)
“Since God has brought you into a new life and because of His deep love and concern for you, you should practice tenderhearted mercy, gentleness, kindness, humility, patience and compassion to others. Don’t worry about the impression you make, be willing to suffer quietly and patiently.” ~Colossians 3:12 (ABV)
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