Getting a Little Heated

Yesterday was not a good day. Starting with the sick doggie (who is better, but still not back to normal), things went south before I'd even had my coffee (which I'm back on, obviously). I'll spare you the details of my cruddy day and jump right to the final straw.

I'd already dealt with dog issues (literally), financial issues (also literally, of course), and a holiday-is-coming-up-crowd at the grocery store when I found myself standing in the WRONG line at the grocery store check out. With all of my groceries unloaded onto the conveyor belt I was stuck behind a woman who was trying to pay for a few items through the WIC program, which I have no problem with and am thrilled that what appeared to be a grandmother raising her young grandchildren has access to. Except that while all the check-out counters around me were either checking out their customers very quickly or were absolutely empty with no one in line, I had to stand there for - I kid you not - 15 minutes while three different grocery store employees went looking for one item after another for this woman because the products she had selected didn't qualify for WIC - once again no problem with WIC or this woman's use of the program, I promise.

The problem that began to get to me was that no one was acknowledging me at all. You know how the story's supposed to go, right? I stand there patiently and the check out person looks at me and says nicely, apologetically, sincerely, "I'm sorry for the inconvenience ma'am. It should just be a minute more," and I say sincerely, nicely, agreeably, "No problem. I 'm not in a big hurry," because truly I wasn't in a big hurry and truly I am a nice person who is usually pretty patient in such instances.

But I'd had a bad day already and no one was even looking my way to acknowledge how ridiculously graciously patient I was being.

This is when I began to feel things heating up a little beneath the collar. But, because my scripture for the morning had been something to the effect of "I will guard my ways and not use my tongue as a weapon of destruction," (my paraphrase of Psalm 39:1) I was determined not to say anything that would be harmful, hurtful or plain out ugly. Tall order at this point, but I stood there doing my best to look pleasant, be pleasant and not huff and puff. Huffing and puffing is my usual "I'm not saying a word but I'm letting you know how unhappy I am" tactic.

Finally, when the cashier left the register to go find the woman some bread to replace her flour tortilla wraps because....well I won't go into why... I began to put my groceries back into my cart...nicely, oh so nicely, so I could wheel them over to another check out line. I had to muster up such restraint not to slam my canned foods into the buggy and not to throw my bag of potatoes into the cart and not to stomp off! Still, 15 minutes into this ordeal, no one had even acknowledged this whole inconvenience. That's all it would have taken, an acknowledgment, and I would have certainly said my, "No problem" and I could have felt the heat escape from me like a burst of steam and all would have been fine. But no...

So I nicely (really...I did it very nicely) took my groceries to another check out line, got out quickly, carted my purchases to the car and drove off.

Then I cried. Profusely. All the way home.

This morning I went back to Psalm 39 to see where I'd gone wrong. I'd kept my mouth shut like the scripture said, but the longer I kept my words to myself the more I'd heated up. Was that supposed to happen? If I keep my tongue from lighting everyone within earshot on fire am I just going to end up being the one who burns up with anger? That doesn't sound like a win/win solution to me. There's got to be a better way.

Sure enough, there is. Psalm 39:1 through 3 says:

I said, "I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue;
I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle,
while the wicked are in my presence."
(so far, so good, right? But read on!)
I was dumb and silent,
I refrained even from good;
and my sorrow grew worse.
My heart was hot within me;
While I was musing the fire burned.
Psalm 39:1-3a

Turns out holding your tongue isn't the answer at all. If I'm going to truly demonstrate patience and graciousness it has to come from within, from a gracious and patient heart. And it needs to be expressed, not through my silence and restraint, but through a kind and cooperative word. When I just hold it all in I end up heaping coals on my simmering anger and eventually exploding. Not a good plan.

Instead of stoically waiting for someone to acknowledge me, I should have just graciously acknowledged the situation. Something like, "Obviously this is really frustrating for you; take your time, I'm in no hurry," probably would have gone a long ways with this grandmother who was already having to shop with WIC vouchers - no proud moment I'm sure - and now was undoubtedly just as anxious to get through this ordeal as I was. And I, releasing gracious words from my mouth instead of icy silence, would have simmered down too.

Well, that's my little confession to you today. Take courage. We all blow it occasionally, at least that's what I'm telling myself today. No, I didn't blow it in front of anyone, but I sure blew up later. And, now that I think about it, my attempt at composure probably didn't fool anyone around me either. We can all spot a smoking cannon pretty easily, huh? 

But thank God today is a new day, especially since today we celebrate and remember the precious sacrifice Jesus made on the cross to wipe our slates clean. I'm so thankful He did and that even my hidden sins (such as smoldering internal fires) were paid for with His blood. 

I hope you have a wonderful Easter weekend, dear friends. I have some special things going on here next week so please check in with me. I promise to make it worth your while!


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