Yesterday at my retail job there was this customer…A man around age 70. Initially, he seemed friendly and fairly intelligent and rational. He asked me a few questions about our products and then made his way over to have a look at our PDA’s. He began to ask a lot of questions about our PDA’s all while acknowledging that he really does not quite know how to operate his cell phone.
As I was showing him some of the features on the PDA’s he pulled out his cell phone and asked me if I could help him understand what buttons do what. He quickly became frustrated with me because I apparently couldn’t give him all the info he was hoping for. It was at this point that he began to chuckle at me and tell me how incompetent he believed I was. After a bit of this jabbing, I walked away to help other customers, but he persisted in asking questions and getting frustrated when I didn’t give him satisfactory answers.
At this point, about 40 minutes into his visit to our store he began talking to my manager. It was at this point that his wife walked in and I thought to myself, “Good she’ll be embarrassed by her deranged husband and she’s just stopping in to take him home.” But, it wasn’t long before she was asking similar questions and giving both Ria (my manager) and I dirty looks like we didn’t know what we were talking about. When she started in with the questions, he basically began what turned into a fit of coughing. He stood at the register directly in front of me and coughed uncontrollably all while never covering his mouth. “Are you alright sir?”… “I’m fine”…This is when I started getting angry. He stopped coughing long enough to make a rude remark about Ria’s broken English then he went right back to coughing.
After what seemed like an eternity, the couple left the store. I held up my thumb and index finger about an inch apart and said to Ria, “I was this close to asking that guy to leave.” The store had several other customers in it that began noticing this character but he was oblivious to his weird and out of line behavior.
After the incident I slowly began to simmer down a bit and I began thinking, how the heck did Jesus love people like that? I’m usually a patient person but when you start coughing on me and telling me how stupid you think I am I don’t last much more than 30 seconds or so. So, how did he do it? How did Jesus love like that? I’m sure some of the lepers he healed were less than kind and appreciative but I think he loved them and showed it, despite their response.
About 2 hours after that incident I read this in Blue Like Jazz,
“Our behavior will not be changed long with self-discipline, but fall in love and a human will accomplish what he never thought possible. The laziest of men will swim the English channel to win his woman. I think what Rick said is worth repeating, that by accepting God’s love for us, we fall in love w/ Him and only then do we have the fuel we need to obey.” (p.86)
Being more tolerant and loving and maintaining my dignity while helping that man preserve his, is more about falling in love than mustering up some extra self-discipline.
The thing that dawned on me this morning about Jesus was that forgiveness was always on the tip of his tongue. And forgiving people seemed to be the truly transforming thing about him. When he healed the paralyzed guy on the mat in Matthew 9 he first made it known that he was forgiven.
I suppose I shouldn’t go around verbalizing it, but what if the first thing that popped in my head during a confrontational situation was, “dude, you’re already forgiven.”?
How would that change my attitude? My posture? And in turn, how might that radical attitude change the way people respond? Maybe at least I’d get coughed on less. Who knows?
...I do know it's hard to be like Jesus.