Back at work, day after Labor Day. I am enjoying the fruit of my long weekend by having already left my keys to my office at home, having my computer crash, and spilling my coffee on myself. I guess this is the karma of having taken an extra day off to celebrate labor. Ironic. A holiday weekend is a great time to relax, wind down, take that afternoon nap, enjoy a family cookout, head to the park with the kids. Long weekends are a family's paradise..........NOT! I'd be lying if I said my weekend was anything but tense. My home repair projects kept going sideways, mounting exhaustion nagged at my bride's and mine's heels, we had a child throwing up, and for some reason a few of my little ones decided this weekend would be a great time to band together in communal rebellion. The highpoint of my weekend was church and the sharing of our Ludlati trip where I was blessed to share a video and PowerPoint presentation that my bride had labored over.
Yesterday I was particularly tense as I went to go pay for hardware in what was my third trip to the stores for the necessary parts to put my daughter's bunk bed together. To say I was having a difficult afternoon/evening would be an understatement. The previous two trips I permitted my "good" children (those who weren't acting up) to accompany me as a sort-of reward for their good behavior. This trip I needed solitude. My bride graciously did not raise objection when I informed her I was leaving once more to get the right hardware even though, in reality, my project - at this point- could probably have waited until further in the week. But now I was angry and I was committed. This bunk bed was not going to beat me, despite the fact that I had purchased the wrong hardware twice before, despite the fact that the original "t-bolts" for it were no longer manufactured. I was going to beat this thing into submission and by the heavens my daughter was going to sleep on the top bunk! Grrrrrrr.
At first, when I found the hardware aisle, my blood pressure rose just a bit more, in my highly spiritual state, as I failed to find what I was looking for. I began to flip through all of the hanging bolt packets and none of them were right. "Who needs a bolt this short?", I thought in frustration. Then, by God's grace, I found the last two packages of the ones I needed. "1/4-20 x 2 inches. YES! Thank you Lord!" With my mid-aisle micro-worship service, I now felt slightly more spiritual and a little less guilty for my poor attitude. Knowing my bride was preparing dinner, which would be waiting, I hurried to the front, my pace quickening with each step.
As I approached the front of the store, my heart skipped a beat. Four lines with over a dozen groupings of carts and individuals in each snaked from four individual registers across the front of the store. Nearly twenty registers and only four very haggard looking and busy cashiers quickly processing goods and payment. What kind of sick joke was this? From each register, the lines twisted and turned until they hit the clothing departments, at which point the occupants were forced into a southerly 90 degree turn with which to continue forming an "L" shape to each of these snaking apparitions. And the faces of those individuals comprising these lines; anger, frustration, anxiety, boredom - emotions to match what was quickly rising within me. Who was running this circus? Didn't they know people have places to go and things to do? This was ridiculous! With resignation, I found the closest line and waded in.
Standing there, I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to be late and my bride would, inevitably, have to start the kids' dinner without me. As my thoughts began to drift, I began to listen to the conversations around me. "....and then I saw him say 'If you can't man your store better than this, then you can keep your stinking groceries' and he stormed out leaving the whole cart for the manager to put away", one lady relayed to another behind me with a perceived amount of approval. "That's a little extreme" I thought to myself. After all, if you're going to take the time to fill your cart, can't you wait an extra ten to pay for it?
My thoughts were interrupted by a woman giving her "two-cents worth" to one of the cashiers. I noted the woman behind the register, she took the verbal onslaught in silence, but not without effect. The patron's frustration added weight to the recipient. I began to study the people around me in the other lines, listening intently for any conversations I could make out. A father telling a daughter how stupid the managers must be to place so few cashiers at so many registers. Two more ladies laughing about the ineptitude of the cashiers in the speed with which they were processing items and payments. A grouping of college kids complaining about the fact that the whole store should be emptied of its employees to serve their short term need to quickly exit the store. I realized I was surrounded by a sea of discontent and discord. Anger was present in many eyes, glaring eyes bore into employees as they labored. Sneering laughter could be heard repeatedly as ridicule sought to relieve frustration.
Then God brought an image to my mind, one I witnessed multiple times; I recalled small African children in long lines, waiting quietly, patiently, without complaint for their one bowl of rice.
My heart hurt as I was saddened by my attitudes throughout the day. I was sickened by the selfishness around me, not necessarily the individual people, but of the arrogant, self-serving, self-centered, hatred I was surrounded by. It was nauseating and I had been a part of it. Perhaps not verbally, but my mind and attitudes had drifted there. For the second time in recent months, I had the distinct impression that filthy glasses had been removed from my eyes and I could actually see the situation in front of me for what it was. I saw people needlessly concerned and fretting about the temporal and inconsequential. I saw recipients of that fret and worry quietly and patiently enduring as they labored for their meager salaries without thanks, without kindness shown, I saw a young assistant manager doing his best to deal with a situation that had, literally, mushroomed in a very brief time frame. Where those around me were seeing only themselves and what this scenario was doing to them, I saw "others", something I hadn't done all day long.
I am reminded here of the verse in Corinthians which states:
"Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely."
1 Corinthians 13:12 NLT
I find it interesting that once I took my eyes off of myself, my view and my perception sharpened - not to perfection, but sharpened none-the-less. Like this verse says, we walk through this world with a skewed view. It is even more out of focus when it is self focused or drawn to what is affecting only our own small lives. When we learn to focus outwardly, learn to lay down ourselves for others, learn to love others as Christ loved, we will find our vision sharpened, our horizons expanded, and our perceptions of reality much more clear. The enemy of our souls plays heavily upon our unwillingness to do so and would blind us, confuse us, and keep us imprisoned with the mis-perceptions of our limited vision. But God is calling us to heightened vision, a heightened perspective; His perspective, which is the only true perspective. To live and walk on this level is to walk above that which the enemy seeks to entangle and trip us up with.
At Ludlati my vision was keenly sharp, my purpose and focus clear. That was the mountain-top. But in the day-to-day with its continual challenges that permit my flesh to regularly get in the way, I often find my vision distorted when I fail to adhere to Jesus' mandate written in John:
"So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other."
John 13:34 NLT
The ongoing challenge is to stay rooted in Him, in His Word, and to live selflessly, love others, and refuse the enemy entry into our minds and attitudes with self-serving focus. Loving others above ourselves and loving God above all brings clarity. Though we still will never fully know or understand everything in our lives this side of eternity, we'll know the fullness of an increased vantage point and a world filled with colors more rich, people more real, and a depth of soul more recognized as our lives touch others' lives in imitation of our Savior. When we catch Jesus' vision of what it is to love others, we'll realize His vision doesn't include a broken view.