We stood in line and tapped our feet as we checked our phones. I changed lines because I was late for work. The wait dragged on. The checkout lady apparently knew the customer. They were in their own little world, describing menus and what they still had left to do. I realized the checkout lady had stopped scanning. She was actually just visiting with the lady. The line behind me was long. I felt claustrophobic. I lost it.
I don't have a long history of being impatient and rude with staff. I try to be the opposite. In my impatience I said, “Excuse me, but there are a lot of people who have been here, waiting a long time.” The customer was sassy. “And what do you expect us to do about that?” At that point, my usual habit of trying to bless people was forgotten
I wanted to say “Stop holding up the line by chatting!” but instead I just said that I wanted her to be aware that people were waiting. And I glared at her, implying more than I said. They did, in fact, stop chatting, and I got to work with two minutes to spare, but I felt horrible. The checkout lady had acted scolded, and her friend was unaffected.
I had accomplished nothing by my impatience and pushy behavior. I'm still uncertain if there would have been a more polite way to move things along. Regardless, I'm certain that I wasn't an encouragement to either of these women and I certainly did not spread Christmas cheer. I didn't pass that test. Everyone can be nice when the lines are moving along. It takes grace and humility to be nice when you are being inconvenienced or ignored.
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may
see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
– Matthew 5:16
The same can happen when I drive. Here in northern Jersey, I can get in that common “dog eats dog” driving mindset. I've been working on it, but I still refuse to put an ichythus fish emblem on my car. People put this on their car to let others know they're Christians. Every time I'm cut off by a car with a little silver fish on the bumper, I cringe. Then I'm glad that they cut me off instead of a not a non-Christian.
It could be argued that I should chill out. Everyone has bad days. This is true. I'm not a criminal. But I think that these little events are the true tests of where our hearts stand.
Many Christians get the big things right. It’s the little things that come at us out of nowhere and test the depth of our peace. This is when we should act different than the world. We have the Holy Spirit helping us, unless we tune Him out. In this case, I had tuned Him out, but He spoke to me later in the form of conviction.
If I had woken up that day to get my assignment from God, it may have sounded like this: “Okay, today you're going to be pushed very hard to be impatient and rude at the grocery store. Here’s what I want you to do. Be kind to the checkout lady. Working the holiday rush is hard. She has stuff going on at home. Bless her with your patience and then say a prayer for her on the way out to the car. I got your job covered. Don’t get all worked up about it. Got it?”
I know I’ve got it for next time. Be encouraged. God always give us new days and opportunities to get it right. We all need to go back to the drawing board sometimes. This waiting incident taught me a lot. We are all works in process. Remember that the next time you cringe at how you have acted. And the next time, be different.