Monday, March 10

Loving the People of Walmart

I'm a wife. I'm a mom. I'm a woman. I'm a friend and daughter and granddaughter and sister and aunt. I'm a church member, a choir singer, a youth worker. I'm a neighbor, a homeowner, an employee. And I'm a me; an individual who is influenced, motivated, and shaped by all those roles I just mentioned but also separate from them in many ways. I don't think they are supposed to fully define who I am. I think who I am should define how I approach each of those relationships and functions. 

What defines me is my relationship with Jesus. Yes, this is another one of those spiritual posts, but it's something that's been on my mind lately. It's so easy to get lost in or consumed by any and all of those roles I play. It's easy and perfectly understandable to see how a mom can become nothing more than a mom. Children are all-consuming, self-centered, soul-sucking little creatures that require so much, but you love them with a sacrificial, unconditional, proud love that seems to come naturally. Or being a homeowner, that can easily become the definition of me... the constant housework, chores, and maintenance that need to be performed, not to mention the desire to decorate, remodel, replace, and improve, all of which create a never-ending to-do list. Or church member; I go to church three times a week, serve in different ministries, and participate in church events. It's easy to start to think those are enough, to think that I've done my job if all of the different hats I wear are juggled just right and worn long enough to make everyone happy and meet everyone's needs. 

But that generally never works out because it's very difficult to give 100% of yourself to 15 different things, to make everyone happy, and complete every job or task perfectly all the time. There's a reason that the cliche "There are never enough hours in the day" exists. It's because there is too much to do and not enough time or willpower to do it. And lately (mostly due to a sermon my brother-in-law recently preached), I've been realizing that I'm sort of standing behind all these roles and responsibilities and using them as monuments, as my trophies that I hold up to God to say, "Look, I'm doing enough. I'm taking care of all these things. I couldn't possibly add anything else. Maybe when this season in life ends I'll have more time to serve others and share your love with people outside my immediate circle of acquaintance." 

I stand behind the monument of motherhood and being a wife and homeowner and think, "How could I serve one other person? I have a house to keep in order (or at least, you know, the couple of rooms that are accessible to visitors). I have a family to feed and plan for. I have two children under the age of three. Surely, that is enough." And I hear this little thought in my mind that says, "Shelby, Shelby, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary" (an adaptation from Luke 10:38-42). That one necessary thing? I think it's just loving my Savior. I think God is trying to show me that I'm putting the cart before the horse, that I'm working and serving and letting my roles define me, then feeling like there is nothing left to give so I settle for just enough and offer that up to Him to try to justify that I'm worthy and that I'm doing what He's called me to do. But all that He really ever asked me to do is to love Him, to realize the depths of what He has done in my heart and my life, to recognize where I would be without Him and to allow that love and gratitude and joy to fill me up and flow out of me to my family, to my friends, to my job, to my fellow church members, to my neighbors, to the people of Walmart.

Maybe right now I can't pick up and run off to some third-world country to share the gospel (though there are days that it is very tempting). But what I'm finally figuring out is that if I truly understand the gospel and allow it take hold of my heart, then there are opportunities every day to show the love of Christ (the gospel) to the world around me. And I can start with my family. I can start with my neighbors. I can start at Walmart.

That elderly man parked in his powered grocery cart right in front of the freezer section I need to access. Instead of hating him because he's an obstacle to my path, I can love him by asking how I can help him. That mom with her screaming children getting groceries at 9:30 at night. I can hate her by being critical and thinking her poor children should be at home asleep, or I can love her by having compassion and realizing that this may be the only time she is able to get groceries because she may not have anyone to help her at home, and offer her a kind, encouraging word as I pass. The employee who drops some items he's restocking. I can hate him by walking past and going about my own business, or I can love him by forgetting myself for a second and helping him pick up the packages. The cashier who decides to tell me her life story while the line is backing up. I can hate her by not listening, by not caring, by mentally putting her in some predetermined category of people (me-monsters), by worrying more about the people in line behind me than about the words this woman wants to share, or I can love her by showing empathy and not judging, by asking her name and telling her I will pray for her (and then actually praying for her), by maybe doing something within my means to practically meet a need for her.

I'm learning these things are important because anyone can be kind and considerate, but if I name Jesus as my Savior, then my life should definitely be marked by kindness, compassion, consideration, love, and self-forgetfulness. My sister-in-law who has only been a believer for a couple of years showed me at dinner last week what it looks like to treasure Christ and show him to others. Our waitress was rude and short with us before we had even said a word. She was clearly not interested in doing her job with excellence, and I was irritated before she had finished taking our drink orders. I gave a knowing (read: critical/judgmental) glance at my sister-in-law who just smiled, and when it was her turn to order, totally surprised me by stopping the ordering process and saying to the waitress: "How are you doing tonight? You seem like you're having a rough evening." What?!? That was not what I expected from my bold, sometimes sharp-tongued friend. And it humbled me to the core. I hadn't even thought about this girl and her situation. I hadn't taken one second to consider that she was having an awful night. I thought she had a job to do, and she should be doing it without projecting her anger from a previous situation onto us. So instead of loving her, I hated her. But Lee's simple gesture of kindness and thoughtfulness, asking her name and if there was anything we could pray about for her when we prayed for our meal... it softened that waitress. I hope it showed her there is kindness and love in this world. I hope it gave her hope, and most of all, I hope eventually God uses that encounter in some way to draw her heart to Him. But one thing I know for certain is that it gripped me and showed me I live too much for myself, for my own desires, needs, expectations, wants. 

That one small interaction has opened my heart to see just how much of a mission field there really is all around me if I can get outside of ME and all those monuments I've put up. And I'm starting at Walmart.

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