More often than I’d like to admit I stumble. I fall short of the person I’d like to be.
I catch myself being impatient. I catch myself making judgments that aren’t mine to make.
A couple years ago I was having one of those good days where I felt on top of my game. It was a good hair day, my clothes fit right, work went smoothly, and everything seemed pretty darn good. It was a sunny Tuesday. I remember because I stopped at the grocery store to get taco supplies for dinner. It was in the grocery store parking lot that I realized how broken I am.
As I pulled into my parking spot I saw a woman in a minivan. She was severely obese and struggling to get out of the van. I cringed. My mind made assumptions regarding her and the dollar store and tobacco store she’d parked in front of. I made judgments about her health, finances, and even her character. I surmised all were in poor condition.
I wasn’t even out of the produce section when it hit me. There I was getting my Roma tomatoes when I had the realization that God loved her every bit as much as He loved me. In His eyes none of the things I was feeling good about mattered. Perhaps I was the one in poor condition.
A panic came over me as I was now cognizant of what I should’ve done in the first place. I should’ve have seen her laboring to get out of her van and paused to lend her a hand. The way one might offer to help an elderly person with their bags. I hurriedly grabbed the rest of my items and resolved to step out of my comfort zone and go offer her assistance. With taco night essentials purchased, I walked outside with a purpose.
She was gone. I was both disappointed and relieved. Disappointed because I really did want to do the right thing and relieved because sometimes doing the right thing is hard. It is awkward or at least I’m awkward.
Perhaps that is progress in itself to see times where I’m not as kind as I should be. I’d like to think so.
I’ve never really been one to find humor in the quirks or challenges of another person. I certainly didn’t think this woman’s state was funny. It was uncomfortable to see, but it wasn’t anything to laugh at. I saw her limited mobility and thought how hard her daily tasks must be. Yet I still made small-minded quick judgments.
If you and I were friends I may not even notice your cute new haircut. But please don’t take that as in insult, because I probably don’t notice that you’ve gained an extra ten pounds either. I really don’t care. I’m more likely looking in your eyes to see if you look happy. I”m listening to the tone of your voice for hints at something deeper than chitchat. I need to extend that same grace to strangers.
So I try. I slip up. I catch myself. This is the perpetual cycle. Continually bracing myself for the fall when I again see how broken I am. Everything is going along smoothly and then wham, down I go. Much like learning to ice skate as an adult. Gone are the fearless attempts, now there is caution, and thoughts of what a pain in the ass life will be with a broken wrist. Who has time for that? So rather than trusting your instincts and effortlessly gliding you tense up and your stiff motions set you off balance.
Like so many things (so, so many), people who are are skilled at something make it look really bleeping easy. These talented folks breeze through whatever it is with such ease that it deceives the untrained eye. The rest of us actually start to think yes, I could do that too. Pole vaulting looks pretty simple really, yes certainly I could do it. And if I were to try it I would undoubtedly end up face first in the dirt never having left the ground.
Some people are good with people in the same way that an Olympian has perfected their sport. I see them and I envy the ease with which they love strangers and care for others. What I fail to recognize is that they likely practiced. They love and they serve over and over again until it is second nature. They perfect this underrated skill until it appears effortless, but it required work like all worthwhile pursuits do.
I catch myself thinking skinny people don’t have to worry about what they eat when the truth is they probably spend more time planning healthy meals than in the drive-thru. I catch myself thinking the moms of gifted kids are better mothers than I am when the truth is that their kids are just more academically focused. I catch myself wishing for things I don’t need when the truth is I have so much to be grateful for. I catch myself thinking everyone has it together but me when the truth is we are all work in progress.
The important thing is I catch myself.