On Loving People In Line

Photo Credit Buzac Marius

Photo Credit Buzac Marius

On Friday, I stopped by the grocery store to pick up stuff for a BBQ. I had several things in my basket, when a guy with a case of beer got in line behind me. I offered to let him go first because I like it when people do that for me. He did and said thanks.

When the clerk rang up his Miller Lite he said, “Oh I thought it was on sale.”

“Well it is,” she replied. “But you need a Brookshires card.”

“Oh dang.”

I had my Brookshires card in my hand so I reached over and gave it to the clerk. She scanned it and the guy got four bucks off his beer. I like it when people do that for me too.

Then he said something to me that may be the point of this story.

“It’s kind of lame they make you have a card for something they’ve already put on sale anyway.”

“But it’s cool they give you points towards your gas though,” I said. “I saved like 50 cents a gallon last week.”

“Oh wow, that’s a lot,” he said, thanking me and grabbing his beer.

I’m not telling this story to impress you with my goodness in grocery store lines, because I am often hurried and cranky and I don’t let people go ahead of me. But after he left I realized, I used to be that guy and I’m not anymore.

Countless times I have ignored the obvious goodness in front of me to talk about something dumb – like The Man, who could easily have put the beer on sale for everybody, but what a silly thing to talk about. Especially since, the Bible says the power of life and death are in the tongue and what we speak, we’ll eat. Yikes, I don’t want to eat that. This, I think, is a small but good example of the broad destructive path Jesus talked about. Unfortunately, it’s a factory default for many of us.

The narrow path Jesus commends, is patient and generous and speaks life even, and perhaps especially, in the grocery store line when nobody sees it coming.

Photo Credit: Richard Freeman

Photo Credit: Richard Freeman

We forget our lives are like rocks tossed into a pond, and there are ripples all around us. More on that later, but consider for a second what sort of ripples your life is making. In your grocery store, your office, your community.

This is what I think it looks like to operate in the Kingdom of God. It is, in part, to be kind and generous with strangers and reframe meaningless small talk into something that sends good ripples through the water.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

Can you imagine yourself in Walmart being patient, kind and self-controlled without white-knuckling it or being smug about it later? That’s high level. I’m not there yet, I’m still practicing at Brookshires. And I certainly hope you don’t hear smug in this post, but rather excitement and the joy of possibility.

See, I am different now in the grocery store because Jesus has reset my defaults. I operated in the fruit of the spirit Friday without really trying and only noticed it in hindsight. Because of Jesus, I found myself walking the narrow path as though I’ve been there all along.

How cool is that?

Happy Sunday.

How Not to Be a Jerk at Sam’s Club.

IMG_4698I’ve had a slow leak in one of my tires for eight, ten, maybe twelve weeks. Because we have a compressor, I just pump it up and take off again. Of course, Sam finds this totally charming and has reminded me 300 times that Sam’s Club services the tires you buy there, for free.

It’s useful to note that I am extremely important and very busy.

Last Monday, we finally dropped the truck off. The shop was busy so Sam and I went to dinner and returned a few hours later. They were busy again. So I had to wait to get my keys, which, like most of you, I love.

As I drove home, the low tire light refused to go off. Safe in my carport, I whipped out my favorite tire gauge and found two tires properly inflated, one kind of and one half empty.

“Seriously? Must I check my own tires after leaving the tire shop?” I shouted. “Why aren’t they properly inflated? Thanks a lot Sam’s Club. Should I check the lug nuts too?”

Sam egged me on because he thinks it’s funny when I’m mad, especially when I’m digging for my cell phone and the number to Sam’s Club. The store manager was soothing and promised to call back the next day.

But then he didn’t.

All week I stomped around shrieking about Corporate America and wishing I had two million Twitter followers so Sam’s Club would attend to my needs. Occasionally though, I sensed a low voice something like the baseline in a song saying, “Wow, nice first world problem you have. That must be so hard.”

But I ignored that because I have rights and people should do their jobs.

Sam asked how it was going. I sent him this selfie.

Sam asked how it was going. I sent him this selfie.

On Friday, I called again. The tire manager said if I brought it back he’d look at it himself. So I did, and since they were busy, I went to eat some delicious Sam’s Club pizza. Paying for said pizza I recalled, Sam’s doesn’t accept Visa, which is the only currency in my wallet – ever.

A young man with a hairnet stood at the register holding a large slice as I fished in my jeans for $2.49 I already knew wasn’t there. Just then the guy behind me, a big guy with a beard said, “hey let me get that,” and tossed a $20 over the counter. Ugh, I hate indebtedness. I squirmed and profusely overthanked him.

After two hours with no money in Sam’s Club, a polite, young tire guy took me in the back to explain my problem – nails. Three of them, in four tires. As we were talking, another guy walked up – a big guy with a beard…and a uniform.

“Are you driving on a lot of construction sites?” he said.

“Um no. Hey you bought my pizza!”

“Yah. Wherever you’re driving with lots of nails, you should stop driving there.”

“Um, ok. Sorry I accused you guys of doing your jobs badly and thank you again for the pizza.”

“You bet.”

Driving home I realized two Sam’s Club employees took all my tires off, inspected them, cleaned the green slime out, patiently explained my problem, then fixed it, and bought me dinner.

And I never bothered to learn their names.

So what? I mean besides the dinner that’s what they’re supposed to do.

I know but following Jesus is, in part, about recognizing opportunities to love people. I was too busy texting sad selfies to acknowledge them as more than just a means to my end.

See, following Jesus is hard because it requires regular awareness of what other people need. Being self-absorbed is much easier and faster, especially at a such a busy, busy time of…um…year.

And I think zillions of little subplots are simmering just below the surface of our lives. By looking for them and deliberately entering in, asking names, saying thank you, speaking life and kindness, we build the Kingdom of God in the exact way Jesus commands. Friends, it’s not in the grand gestures or the obvious.

It’s in the subplots. Let’s go look for them.