I wrote this blog years ago and never published it because…well…I don’t look so good in it. But, it’s important to be transparent. Even 148 weeks later according to Instagram. So, here you go.
So, I’m currently reading Bob Goff’s Everybody Always. (Look for the review soon!) Bob (yes, I feel we are on a first name basis, despite the fact we haven’t met. He gave me his phone number after all, it’s in the back of the book, and you only share that kind of thing with friends, right?) asserts that we are commanded to love EVERYONE. And he’s right. We are. The bible says time and again to LOVE each other, even your enemies. And that doesn’t mean the easy people, hence enemies. That means the ones who are creepy, the ones who are annoying, the ones who are scary…everyone.
So the question that’s been circling in my head since I started the book a few days ago is…what happens when we fail? Bob talks a lot about loving homeless people and drug addicts and your neighbors, no matter how irritating they are. But for me, the ones who are hard to love are strangers. The ones you only see for a blip of your day. Those people at the store who take the last box of Apple Jacks when your mouth was just watering for it. The one who crashes into you while you’re walking because they expected you to move out of the way, even after you made eye contact because you don’t matter to them one lick. Basically, the rude people.
Now, everyone who knows me knows I am your champion until you start with me. Then, I’m the finisher. My tongue is sharper than Crocodile Dundee’s machete, so believe me when I say, if you start, I will finish. Once, a boy in my class tried to bully me, and I told him his hair looked like a maxi pad with wings and channels (he had a very deep part and had gelled his hair so it flipped out. It was sort of stylish at the time, but man did I nail that zinger). He was humiliated. My entire seventh grade class (clearly a time when a maxi pad was a horrible thing to be compared to) laughed as he did his walk of shame away. My tongue only got sharper as I got older.
Now, particularly since I had my daughter and subsequent near death experience (I’ll explain that in another post), I’ve softened a bit. But probably not enough. Case in point, what happened to me yesterday.
A man in a huge Ford F6750 or whatever it was almost hit me in the parking lot of Pier One, while I was walking. All 100 lbs of me is going to be like a mosquito on that man’s grill. He slammed on his brakes, while I crossed completely legally by the way, and then proceeded to inch up on me. Now, this irritated me. I don’t care for being threatened in any way. So, of course I slowed my pace. He inched up on me until he was about a step and a half to my left. I swear, my head barely cleared his hood. Not sure how he could even see if I was out of the way to be honest. Once I was clear of him, I made a poor choice. I flipped him off. He crossed some invisible line only I could see, and I wanted him to know. Then, and only then, did he come to a complete stop, roll down his window and screamed obscenities at me. So, I answered by flipping him off again, and screaming my own colorful obscenities in return. In front of God and everyone, literally. That should’ve made me feel better, right? I sure showed him. He sped off, screeching his tires in the parking lot, while a car in the opposite direction kept a good distance from both of us, and rightfully so.
But it didn’t make me feel better. Immediately I thought of Bob’s book. And how I hadn’t shown that man love. I hadn’t let him see God’s face through me. I’d failed. Miserably. I was embarrassed and ashamed. Had he wronged me? Yes, he threatened me with his big truck, because where he had to be was more important than where I had to be and he couldn’t spare five seconds to let me cross in peace. But here was an opportunity for me to take the high road, and instead I joined him in his impatience and added anger to the mix, instead of bringing his face up to the light. Now, if I’d just smiled at him, instead of engaging him, would he have been like “oh my that girl is amazing, she must be a Christian, please show me the light of Jesus right now?” No. He most definitely would not have done that. This isn’t an episode of Touched by an Angel. But, I would’ve broken the anger cycle. And that’s the win in this situation. There is too much anger in this world, and yesterday I spread it instead of squashing it.
So what could I do? Obviously the only reasonable thing, which was: Have massive anxiety about it for most of the night, leaving me cranky and sleep deprived the following day. I’m betting that man didn’t give me another thought after he sped out of that parking lot. But I thought about him. Which just made me more upset.
That brings us to today. I was out with some friends, getting a treat at my FAVORITE ice cream shop, Kilwins (shout out to Kilwins! Bob, if by some miracle you are reading this, get you some Kilwins, man. My treat if you come to Florida.) We saw a very striking woman walking into the shop as I was walking out. Now, I’m a firm believer in compliments. I think they mean something, especially coming from a stranger who owes you nothing. And this woman nailed her look that day. She was about 70 or 75, totally coordinated, right down to her purse, scarf, and tasteful jewelry. So, I said something.
“Wow! You just look awesome today! Very stylish. Well done.”
Now, I’d stopped doing this as frequently because I come on a bit strong and some people find that off putting. I’m very loud for my size. And I could tell that I’d startled her a bit with my WOW. But I plowed ahead because, well I was committed. And I’m glad I did.
She was delighted. Her face lit up, and she thanked me for my kind words. We parted ways quickly and my friends and I walked on. The whole thing took about four seconds. But I could tell I’d impacted her day. She would think about what I’d said long after we were gone. And it wouldn’t be in the anxiety-ridden keep you awake at night kind of way. It would be the huge, delighted smile she was wearing kind of way.
So where does this leave me? I’m a bit of a score keeper, so you’d say I was even right? Epic fail yesterday, win today, right? Well…
First, God doesn’t keep score. If He did, we’d all be Losers with a capital L. Because I don’t know about you, but I suck at this whole love one and other, embodiment of Christ thing, let’s be honest. So, score one for us, since God isn’t keeping score? Apparently, I can’t stop.
Second, what I did today isn’t exactly what Bob is talking about. That woman was safe. She was easy to love. She was approachable. I’d say I got a base hit today, not a home run. Base hit is still better than a strike out, but this perfectionist wants that point for the home team.
For some of you, doing what I did would be scary, and for you, it would’ve been a home run. Those introverts out there are all probably going OMG you did what to a complete stranger? And for you, I’d encourage you to try it. It’s very fun to make someone smile. And if they just look at you like an extra eye just popped out of your forehead, that can be kinda funny too. So at least one of you is smiling by the end. But for me, I’m a bit of an extravert, so this isn’t a stretch.
What is a stretch is praying for someone who’s wronged me. Someone who screamed obscenities at me in public. And when I say praying for them, I don’t mean, “Please God, change his heart so he isn’t such an a-hole anymore.” I mean “Please Lord, bless him and his family abundantly. If he is struggling now, ease that. Bring joy to his life.” And mean it. Actually mean it. Then, forgiving him for the perceived wrong. Because in most chance encounters with strangers the wrong is nothing more than that: Perceived.
I have no idea why that guy was in such a hurry yesterday, and why what he was doing was so much more important than what I was doing. How life and death could it be? For heaven’s sake we were in the Pier One parking lot, not the hospital. But still, something in his life shortened his fuse, and I allowed him to shorten mine. If I was love, as Bob says we all should be, I believe I would’ve responded differently to him. I may have hurried to get out of his way, and wished him well. Something like that would’ve made for nothing more than a passing encounter in my day. I wouldn’t have given that man a second thought. But here I am, more than 1500 words later about him…and how I failed him.
The thing about failure is, I hate it. No, that’s not the thing; that’s the thing about me. The thing about failure is, God will give me another chance. And another one after that. And another and another and another. According to Bob, God isn’t shaking his head in disappointment when we fail. He’s holding his arms open, waiting for us to get back up and keep walking toward Him. I did that today. It was a baby step, but I did it. Tomorrow, I hope I can take another step, even if it’s just a shuffle. Because, while I want people to know I’m moving toward Him, more importantly, no matter what anyone thinks of me after spending about ten seconds or less with me, today, I moved towards Him. And you should too.
Oh, and grab Bob’s book while you’re at it. It’s good, and if nothing else, it’ll make you laugh.