Monday, June 9, 2008

Grace for each day

My little guy and I had just pulled up to the drive-thru window at the bank. I was congratulating myself on having beaten the lunch rush (it was just before noon on Friday, a time which is notorious for long lines at any bank). The gal on the other side of the window—am I still permitted to call them tellers, or will that insult someone?—apologized to me as soon as she’d accepted my papers through the little window exchange tray. She explained that she had to go take care of the customer at her window inside the bank first, and then she’d handle my transaction. I nodded and smiled in acknowledgement, and she turned around and went to the other customer.

The other customer’s transaction took longer than normal, and a couple of minutes ticked by with us sitting there by the window, waiting. It was astoundingly hot outside, and since I’d been prepared to conduct business, we’d turned off the air conditioning and had windows down. The steaminess became more and more oppressive, and I started to get a tad cranky. So much for beating the rush, I was thinking. I hope she comes back soon. I was also thinking, I can’t leave because I already gave her my request, including my driver’s license.

At some point while we waited, a mini-van had pulled into line behind us. I hadn’t noticed it, but now I did…because there seemed to be a loud voice emanating from the van. I listened more carefully, just in time to hear the next phrase clearly: “What the f*!? is going on up there?” I checked the rear view, and felt a grip of anger in my chest when I realized the man was yelling at me. He could see my arm hanging out the window, could see that nothing appeared to be happening at the window, and apparently he was having a bad day because the tirade continued. “What the f!?@ is taking so f*@#ing long?” Some of the words were too muffled to identify, but what I did hear was foul and rude.

By now, the teller had returned to my transaction and, because it was a simple one, she finished it quickly and returned my receipt and license to me; she apologized again for the wait and asked if there was anything else she could do for me. I really, really wanted to say to her, “Yes, please, can you tell the fellow behind me that the wait was not my fault?” But I didn’t. I just shook my head, took my stuff, and pulled out of line; the guy was still shouting obscenities at me even as we left the bank parking lot. (Thankfully, Marcus didn’t seem to hear him.)

Now, what causes that? The man in question wouldn’t stand out in a crowd; he was a nondescript middle-aged guy, driving a relatively new mini-van. Was there something else wrong in his life? Was the small delay at the bank simply the straw that broke his figurative back? Could he not see that I, too, was a captive at that window as much as he was? Even the girl working the window couldn’t really be blamed; she was being asked to handle too much, was probably no happier about than I was—I’m sure she wouldn’t choose to schedule herself to work two busy lines at once.

Oddly enough, as we drove away (I was actually shaking a bit, I was so irritated), there suddenly flashed in my mind a little image. It’s a page from a lesson covered in my boy’s Sunday school class, a page that he colored primarily with orange and red crayon. I know it well because I see it frequently—it’s hanging on his bedroom door, where most take-homes are posted temporarily while we decide whether or not the piece should be kept forever. This particular page is a picture of Paul and Silas in jail, and of their jailer, who holds the keys to their cell as he listens to them singing praises to God. The caption is something simple—“Paul and Silas sing to God from jail.” (Acts 16: 16-40)

And it hit me, that little colored picture, in a way that studying the story from the book of Acts never did. Here I am, getting all worked up about a guy calling me some names because he’s an impatient jerk, and here these disciples were being thrown in jail for ordering spirits out of people and proclaiming what they believed to be God’s truth. They hadn’t even done anything wrong, to my way of thinking, yet they were beaten, dumped in a cell, put in chains. And their reaction? To sing. They didn’t try to tell the jailer they were being treated unjustly. They didn’t start a riot in the jail. They didn’t cry on each other’s shoulder or complain bitterly about the situation or write a tell-all book about their ordeal. They sang. Praises. Sincere praises.

That is pretty awesome when you think about it.

I can’t fathom being able to do that… except by the grace of God. I can’t even handle some common, everyday verbal abuse by a stranger whom I’ll likely never see again.

Suddenly, driving away from that bank, from that hostile but pathetic man, I felt a bit sheepish about my lack of spiritual stamina. I have much to learn about being gracious in the face of humanity. My only hope is a grace that is most certainly not my own. A grace that I can only hope someone extends to me in my hour of need—or in my own hour of being a jerk. Because those do roll around for all of us, you know. For some more than others, I won’t argue with you about that, but we all wear the jerk hat on occasion.

Thankfully, His grace is sufficient.

NOTE: If you have any interest in the concept of praise, our pastor (Pastor Rock, as he’s fondly known) has spoken several times about just that subject. The sermons are all online for your listening pleasure…and education. I’ve learned so much from this man; he knows his Bible, and he’s just the best and most humble teacher. I encourage you to have a listen for yourself. Go to

and scroll down to any of these dates:


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