I ran out to get a few things the other day from good old Publix and ran into the store right before the rain came down in sheets. The rain was falling so hard, that it sounded like billions of tiny ball bearings were hitting the roof over our heads in the store. I looked out the front window of the store and to my amazement, there; where the parking lot had been, raged a river of water at least 8 inches deep! People were running into the store soaked in only seconds.
Of course, I had things to do, places to go, and people to see. I stared at the parking lot and then, went into what I call my “efficiency mode”. This means I purposely decided to turn “off” my social people greeting, side smiling, comment making self, and got down to the REAL business of finding a pork tenderloin. It was serious work and needed my full attention. I couldn’t be bothered by any distractions insomuch as pork tenderloin selection is a delicate process and is; of course, a great responsibility.
Just when I was zeroing in on a prime portion of tenderloin robbed by a butcher from a pig, I felt the brush against my right shoulder of a person reaching past me to grab my prized piece of pig! She just bumped me, said a cursory, “excuse me” and literally elbowed me out of the way with her left arm and started to grab my selection of swine!!! My blood began to boil. I placed my hand on the same selection of corpulent pork flesh as if to say…”Not so fast sister!” The room fell silent. The air became tense and thick with tension. Slowly; but deliberately I turned my head to the right to look the impatient patron of my Publix store directly in the eye. Everything went into slow motion…mothers of small children protected their young,… the butcher on call that day, ran to the back room for protection against the impending explosion. The chill of the refrigerated section made the hair on my arms stand on end.
A voice spoke up, “I want that tenderloin” she said sternly, not waiting her turn. “I saw it first!” I said with equal sternness having possession of the pig but not my soul. We stared at each other, she, declaring that I was taking too long… I, asking her who made her the official timekeeper of the meat department. It was a spectacle! I’m always the peacekeeper…you know? I always have to be the one who must “behave” and “be a good Christian!”. I rolled my eyes at God…”Why, oh why can’t I ever mix it up with people…” you know? I handed her the (damn) tenderloin (I mean it, folks, this is me in the FLESH I said that in my head…”Here’s your damn tenderloin!” and smiled like I was just kidding and she cheesed it up like, “that’s a good boy….give Mama what she wants!” Inwardly I was seething…yeah, and this was over a piece of pork folks!
She left smiling… and inside
of me, I felt as if someone had just called my sister ugly…I wanted to
throw DOWN! This raw emotion was more volatile than the thunderstorm
outside the store. I actually had to walk over to the frozen potato
freezer and just tried to cool off. If you think this outburst and
overreaction just a bit too immature…well, it was. And it was something
that as I shopped, God had to deal with me about. I’ll let you in on the
conversation, and if you find yourself judging my immaturity in the
exchange, just know that your judgment is probably right, but it takes
time when you are angry to quiet things down inside to learn the lesson.
In the first place, the Lord is kind…and merciful when he brings up my childishness. I felt Him kind of say, “What are you really mad about?’, to which I, exploded;
“Why do I always have to lose?!!!’ Why do I always have to DO THE RIGHT THING…HAVE THE RIGHT ATTITUDE…BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH!!!”
I don’t know about you, but when God wants to talk things over with me, I am still thirteen years old and I like to sass. It always starts out hot and God lets me slowly cool down and doesn’t make thunderous, Wizard of Oz-like pronouncements like, “QUIET SCARECROW!” but rather with very calm questions that…are crafted to bring me back to the important things.
The silence of God is the most formidable silence I have ever known. I asked the question again…like maybe he didn’t hear me or something. Again, no answer on the other end of the phone. So, you know what I did? I hung up the phone! I just white-knuckled my shopping cart and pushed it toward the tenderloin section again and started looking at; what I was sure to be, inferior cuts of tenderloin. (yes, dear reader…I was pissed off about tenderloin! Lol!)
I bent down over the refrigerator when I heard the Lord ask, again, “What are you really mad about?”
My reply was, “Well, that old bitty just stole my tenderloin, and I had to GIVE it to her because you want me to be a GOOD Christian! I always have TO LOSE because, of course, I could send someone to hell by givin’ them a little taste of their own medicine!…but oh no…no I have to be everyone’s DOORMAT and get walked on in the name of “being a good Christian!”! ALWAYS! You never let me just give em a piece of my mind!”
Maggot filled heart, service out of necessity, not out of love…God just wanted me to hear my own heart and I DON’T EVEN LIKE PORK THAT MUCH!!!
I was mad at something that I didn’t even realize. That a lot of my so-called “good Christian” BS was all just smoke and mirrors…just out of religious service to look good and not to be good. I was a whitewashed tomb…outwardly kind but inwardly full of dead men’s bones…and my mouth…dear Lord, my mouth was just pouring out everything in my heart. I was genuinely angry at the very source of my life and joy…blaming Him for my hypocrisy. I, however, did not repent at that moment. I was still very bitter about it.
Up and down the aisle I went, my attitude worse than the weather outside…and I exuded that attitude as well. I was scowling…lower lip pushed out, kind of brooding and definitely grumpy. Two of the employees who know me saw me walking and later told me, “You looked mad so I didn’t want to say anything to you,” which made me feel really ashamed of myself. Each time, for “some reason” that lady who stole my tenderloin was coming down the same aisle toward me and each time I had to turn my head away from her because I saw that tenderloin in her basket and it would call out me saying, “Hey ya little sissy Christian, I’m goin home with this 90 lb old lady who kicked your butt!” “Ya little loser!” Evidently, the tenderloin was from Jersey…cause he spoke with a Jersey accent.
I decided I’d had enough and walked all the way to the other side of the store to get something else I needed. Of course, as the lesson master would have it, the pushy old lady with an elbow like an MMA sucker punch, also decided to go over to the other side of the store. Here I am in the bread aisle and I see that mouthy little tenderloin saying, “Go ahead, reach for the Bunny Bread…I dare ya!” I just knew the second I reached for something the old lady was going to reach for it too so I just stopped and stood behind my cart and waited for the lady and her belligerent pork butt to leave the aisle. I can’t stand a mouthy piece of pork!
As I stood pretending to look at my phone, again the teacher spoke in my ear…”So, what are you really mad about?” This time, I just was worn out and said, “You know Lord…you know what I am mad about”. He said, “Yes, I know, but I want you to say it out loud so you can hear it.” I sighed and said, “I’m angry that I have to lose my life everyday…I’m angry that I have to prefer others above myself, I’m angry that after 40+ years of following you, I am still as much of a pig as that tenderloin!” and I left my shopping cart right there and started for the front door. I figured I needed the quiet privacy of truck to talk this out. But He wouldn’t let me. Right in front of me, on my way out, was the little old lady. It was raining…POURING actually, and the store had three golf umbrellas sitting by the door for the employees who help with taking out customers groceries to their cars.
Remembering that the only way around the mountain was to go through it…I grabbed an umbrella, looked at the pork thief and said, “Come on, I’ll walk you out to your car!” She thanked me and I walked her toward her car. Yes, the thought DID occur to me to get her halfway there and then run back into the store…but I resisted that thought…it was a 10-year-old thought and I was thirteen so it was beneath me. We loaded her groceries, and then I followed her to her door to make sure she wouldn’t get wet.
When she drove away and I had walked back into the store, I found my cart still sitting where I left it. I went to the register to pay for my groceries but at the checkout, I looked at the “return basket” that every register has for when people changed their minds about something they didn’t want. As she checked my groceries across the scanner, I looked behind her in the return basket and…there, sitting in as big as life was the tenderloin from Jersey! Evidently, the lady didn’t want it after all, and here it was waiting for me.
“Hey, ya big palooka! Here I am, I’m all yours!” I smiled and paid the lady at the register but left the tenderloin in the return basket. Of all the gin joints in all the world, this tenderloin was sitting at the check out lane that I went to. The lesson I took away had nothing to do with the lady or the tenderloin…but it had everything to do with my motives about serving God and others.
I can pretend that what I do is for God and for His glory, but unless we lose… REALLY lose our lives, we will never find them in service, in good deeds or in religious exercise. We only really find our lives when, we lay them down, willingly. It is our choice, but it’s best to remember that dead men can’t feel resentment toward inanimate objects.
I’m going to Aldi next time!