I was at the CVS pharmacy just to pick up a couple of items for a friend.
After a long day of work and then helping her move, I just wanted to run in, get the items, and leave. I was relieved when I quickly found everything she needed; a couple of the items were even on sale.
I wheeled the cart to the check out area, and though it seemed rather crowded, I was next in line at the register I selected. The guy in front of me was already paying. The errand would be as quick as I had hoped, I thought to myself.
But then something happened. The man still had his wallet open and was apologizing.
“Oh, sorry about that. I need a pack of cigarettes, too,” he said to the clerk. “A pack of soft, red Marlboros.”
“The red box?” she asked, confused.
“No, just a pack in the soft cover, not the box,” he told her.
After a couple of minutes, the cigarettes were on the counter, he laid down more cash, and I was sure it was finally my turn to check out.
But he just stood there talking. He told the clerk a story about his wife. He reached and reached to put his wallet in his pocket, but couldn’t find it because he was distracted with another story about a previous shopping trip. Finally, he turned away from the clerk to find his pocket and stole a glimpse at me.
“Oh,” he said, apparently just realizing I was back there. “I better move out of the way or this lady is going to run her cart into me.”
“No, I would never do that,” I insisted, even though the thought had crossed my mind somewhere about the time he was describing the Marlboro packaging in detail.
“She looks mean,” he teased, to the clerk. “She’s mad.”
“No, I’m not,” I said.
“Oh, I guess you’re nicer than you look,” he told me as he started to walk away. He was chuckling.
“Thanks a LOT,” I said, trying not to be irritated.
“Just having fun,” he said. “Merry Christmas to you.”
“Merry Christmas to you, too,” I said, not meaning it.
I wanted to be mad about the stranger who told it like it is. But the strange thing was, he saw me unfiltered, when my face was telling it like is. I wasn’t being patient or loving. I wasn’t wishing him peace and goodwill. And he knew it.
I was in a hurry. I had had a long day. And I wanted to shove his Marlboros in the trash and tell him that smoking was dumb. No amount of denying it could convince the man otherwise.
Sometimes, I feel that way about waiting on Jesus, too. I’m tired and impatient, and it feels like He’s taking too long. I come to him unfiltered, when my prayers consist mostly of whining.
But He sees me, sees me before I can act the part or mimic the right words to say. And he reminds me– sometimes with a man buying Marlboros, sometimes with a bad diagnosis, sometimes just straight from His word — “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised” (Hebrews 10:36).
And I can’t be mad about that.
So tonight, my friends, I want to tell it like it is, for real this time. Perhaps this is God’s word to YOU: “We do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved” (Hebrews 10:39).
More Advent links . . .