Just such a situation arose yesterday in my everyday comings and goings. It happened after one of my exercise classes and truly was just a misunderstanding that evolved into a teachable moment. The exercise class got started a little late and so, because we did not think there was a class following us in that space, we kept going for a few minutes after scheduled ending time. Now this is a group of women who love each other, have great fun working out and chat a little (?) after class. We were in no hurry to exit the building.
It turned out there was a class scheduled to follow ours and we were delaying that class. One of the coordinators who runs the place came in and asked us to vacate quickly. We were gathering our belongings up and making our way towards the door when the instructor for the next class came in. We all greeted her with smiles and apologies. She returned our offerings with silence and an icy stare. She moved to the center of the room and did not return one greeting. Okay, she was right. We were in her space and in her time.
Our instructor tried to speak to her and was ignored. Our instructor again tried to ask her a question concerning leaving a door open. Nothing. Finally on the third try, the new instructor curtly instructed her to “Close it!”. We did.
As we walked to the parking lot, my temper began to rise complete with neck roll and the question “Excuse me?” How dare she treat us like that, even if we were in the wrong. We apologized didn’t we? I asked my instructor who this other woman was and what she teaches? I was informed she teaches, “Gentle Yoga.” Really? Boom. My mind went into high gear on that one. “You’re kidding right?” I laughed out loud. Did she not see how her behavior was in direct conflict with the concept of anything gentle? Did she not know people were watching?
As I drove home, I had a conversation with Lynerd (my 1969 VW bug) who is one of my best counselors and does not get his bumpers all in a wad when I am raging on about life’s indignities and unfairness. Good listener is my Lynerd. We processed the happenings and the irony of the situation. I fumed on and on. Then God got in on the conversation. He brought some things to mind that pulled me off my righteous Rachel seat of justified indignation.
First, he reminded me that I walk this world wearing a cross and talking about my Lord where ever and whenever I am allowed opportunity (sometimes even when I am not allowed the opportunity). Yet some days and in some ways, I do not demonstrate love, patience or understanding let alone offer the hand of friendship to my fellow earth-walking travelers. There are days when I am not at all in a mood to walk the talk I profess when declaring myself a Christian. God was not condemning me. He was just reminding me I am human and have my good and bad moments. And so, (get this one) are others. He brought to mind the scripture about “Let he/she who is without sin cast the first stone.” Yikes!! If this is not impetus to relinquish my white wig, long black robe, gavel pounding and self-appointed seat on the bench as the world’s adjudicator, I don’t know what is. Suddenly that stone of mocking disbelief and justified sarcasm became too heavy to even pick up, let alone level at a stranger.
Second, He told me that I do not know everything going on with that woman. Perhaps she was under a tight timeline. Perhaps she was not feeling well. Perhaps she was dealing with a personal crisis or tragedy. Perhaps. perhaps, perhaps. Point is, I do not know the truth about what was going on with her and what motivated her behavior. Here’s the kicker, folks. My knowledge is irrelevant. The way I react to what happened is the point. And that reaction is not just with my lips and other forms of physicality, but with my heart.
Lynerd and I moved along home and with each passing mile, it became clear this was an opportunity for me to become more Christ-like by seeing a whole picture (as far as human limitations allow). It was a chance to understand that we made a mistake and did our part to apologize as soon as we realized it. No need to tear another down to justify our mistake. There was no need to judge this woman’s motives and no need to continue to do anything but pray for her situation and that God would make her day better. What is more, there was no need for me to take things personally and mount a mental attack that justified my anger and placed this stranger anywhere but on my Christmas card mailing list. That is it and all about it.
Lynerd and I pulled into the driveway and I sat there letting his little motor hum a while. There seemed to be a different kind of rhythm to his mechanical purring. I think he was kinda laughing, a little. Not laughing at me you understand. True friends don’t laugh AT us. They lovingly help us to lighten up sometimes. In this case Lynerd helped me laugh at my own propensity to take some things way too personally and much too seriously. Yes, I think once again God used irony, humor (and Lynerd of course) to gently help me look at my own behavior when reacting to life’s situations.
I cannot promise I will ever get total control of the ethnically-mediated temper I have been blessed with. And I cannot guarantee the quick wit God gave me (for the good of others) will not again jump into high gear to find the tool of sarcasm and use it in my thought process, especially when I am defending myself because I am right (by cracky). But I am happy to report that God does not give up. He continues to use situations to teach me how to love when it is not easy, how to try to look at a situation from many angles, and how to resist the temptation to feel superior to others because of what I think I observe. My job on this planet is to use my gifts to point others to Christ. I admit to you that I do not always walk my talk. And I will hopefully learn to be quick to resist judging others when it appears to me they are not walking their talk either. I pray I will be even quicker to remember – others are watching.
Copyright May 2012
Lakewood, CO 80401