The holiday season can often present circumstances and choices that reveal who we really are.
Yesterday I was in the checkout line at a large store whose name rhymes with “Tall Bart.” I had to purchase three small items for our church and was in the ‘10 items or less’ lane behind an older couple who were in the process of unloading and checking their order.
As I waited in line, a woman pulled up behind me with a cart full of Christmas decorations. She began placing her large items on the conveyor belt to the point where there was no room for me between the woman and the couple ahead of me. I thought it was humorous but also felt a little uncomfortable as the woman seemed oblivious to my presence. My discomfort turned to mild indignation when her shopping cart bumped me. I instantly had thoughts of how to respond to this woman: stare her down, verbally confront her, or push her cart and items backward on the conveyor.
Then I heard God’s still small voice within me saying “ Show who you are in me”. In what must have been a microsecond I asked God to do what I couldn’t do on my own: show kindness and grace to this woman.
Instead of glaring, I smiled at the woman and saw she was embarrassed at what had taken place. She said “I’m sorry” and I told her it was okay, and then asked her how her Christmas shopping was going. The next few moments we had a friendly conversation as I checked my items, and I said “Merry Christmas” to her as I left the checkout line with my bag and receipt. As I walked to my car, I realized that God diffused the indignation in me and brought His grace into what could have been an ugly moment.
Last night Rich, a friend of ours, shared how God has empowered him to step away from indignation when someone cuts in front of him on the road or drives aggressively. He remembers that other drivers’ lives and circumstances are beyond our comprehension and might even be desperate—a woman whose husband just left her, a man who lost his job, someone on the way to the hospital to see a loved one, and more. I told Rich my wife often reminds me of this when I get impatient in my driving. I continue to ask God to remove trivial indignation from my heart when I am offended by someone else’s actions, whether or the road, in a store, or in life.
Our church has magnetic bumper stickers with the letters “LOCC”— the initials of our church— for display on our cars. A colleague told me having this bumper sticker on his car has made him think more about his driving behavior as he remembers that we are telling people “I belong to this church.”
In a real sense, all Christ followers have a personal ‘bumper sticker’ on our lives: God has marked us as His beloved and redeemed children. In times when we experience anger or indignation over trivial offenses, we would do well to remember that God has put us on display to all people:
“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
In challenging moments, as we yield to God’s promptings and power over our own emotions, we have the privilege of showing God’s love and grace to others in words and actions. With the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s Word alive in us, our lives will tell others “I belong to Jesus Christ”…
And they can too.
God bless you!