downloadAbout a year ago I took an early morning trip to our local supermarket to pick up a few items, including a gallon of milk.  There was only one checkout line open, so I quickly went through the line that was staffed by a middle-aged woman.

When I got home, I looked at the milk carton I just purchased and saw that the expiration date had already passed. Grabbing the receipt, I immediately headed back to the store and into the same checkout line I had just been through. I presented the milk and the receipt to the cashier and politely asked for a refund or replacement. The woman forcefully informed me that I should have read the expiration date before purchasing the milk, and from her facial expression, words, and tone of voice I could tell she was not happy with me.

A million thoughts raced through my head at that moment—some less than kind— as I felt my “customer-wronged” anger rising. But at that moment I also sensed God’s still small voice prompting me, so I quickly sent up a prayer that He had laid on my heart many years ago:

“Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.”
Psalm 141:3

To be honest, I reminded the cashier I just paid for a fresh gallon of milk, and that is all I needed.  However, even though my emotions were still running a little high, my words were calm. Thankfully the situation was quickly resolved, and soon I was heading home with a fresh, unexpired gallon of milk.

But the story doesn’t end there. Since then, just about EVERY time I went into that store I encountered the same cashier. At first, it was unnerving to think about having to interact with this person, and there were a few times I would avoid her by going through the self-checkout lane.

But then the thought occurred to me: What if God was asking me to show compassion for this person in the few moments that I interacted with her in the checkout lane?

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other,
just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Ephesians 4:32

So I asked God to fill me with His Holy Spirit and equip me with His kindness and compassion for this cashier whenever I encountered her.  I decided (with God’s help) that I would smile and offer a word of affirmation whenever she processed my grocery order.  Since that time I have had several positive, albeit brief conversations with her. I learned that she loves reading books, especially Tom Clancy-style novels (I found this out when I asked her if she had anything fun planned for the summer). She has even given me a couple of recommendations of books to read.  So far none of our brief, 30-second conversations has had deep spiritual content, but God has taught me to pray for her and continue to display His kindness whenever I see her in the grocery checkout lane.

Through this experience, God again reminded me that all people matter to Him, even people who might be difficult. God can take the small seeds of kindness we plant in someone’s life to help grow his kingdom purpose for them.

A beautiful display of worship to God takes place when we set aside personal pride and anger when confronted with difficult people and instead invite and allow Christ’s peace to calm our hearts, control our words, and bring kindness and compassion to them.

Let’s keep worshiping God through our lives and words, especially when difficult people come our way.

Each week I post new thoughts on worshiping God through a transformed life in Jesus Christ. I also invite you to check out my new book  “The Isaiah Encounter: Living an Everyday Life of Worship” on Amazon and at selected bookstores (Published by Morgan James Publishing). I appreciate your help in telling friends and churches about this exciting resource!

God bless you!
Chris Atkins

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