I have a horrible light fixture in my bedroom. The icky thing drives me bananas! Every two weeks, the fixture burns out its light bulb. I’m tall enough to reach the fixture if I stand on my tiptoes and stretch, but I’m short enough that the process isn’t exactly easy. I know I could get a step stool, but honestly, I’m too lazy. So I stretch on my tippy toes, groan, moan, and hope the bulb stays lit for longer than two days. Burned out light bulbs are among my pet peeves.
Another pet peeve is long lines. During quarantine, I couldn’t go into stores, and I missed shopping SO MUCH. I used to dream about strolling through the produce section of my local supermarket. It’s amazing how swiftly life changes. I can go into stores now, and although the novelty hasn’t disappeared, I have to admit that I have fallen back into my old pattern of hating checkout lines.
I hate waiting. It isn’t any fun, and I tend to get bored quickly. After about two minutes, I start standing on one foot–then I shift my weight to the other foot. After three minutes, I try entertaining myself by scanning the covers of magazines. After five minutes, I begin mentally playing The Price is Right and trying to come up with the grand total of the items in my cart to the nearest retail dollar. After seven minutes, I try stifling my yawns and smiling—but if the wait is longer than eight minutes, my smile starts to waver. I begin to frown. After nine minutes, I can feel my face hardening. I start to feel my stomach churning. At nine minutes and thirty seconds, I’m more than a little impatient—I’m angry. As the ten-minute mark is reached, I begin mentally composing a letter to the manager of the store. I’m a writer, and my mental compositions tend to be full of zingers. Although my “mental letters” never get sent, they’re acidic enough to blister paint. If the wait stretches longer than twelve minutes, I have a hard time being civil.
The other day, I was in a checkout line that was incredibly long. The twelve-minute mark had come and gone. By the time my turn came, I was exceedingly grouchy. I didn’t smile at the checker. I didn’t respond to her greeting. Truth be told, my body language was extremely snotty. I was putting off a VERY nasty vibe. Although it wasn’t the checker’s fault that my shoes were giving me a blister or that the store was hot–at that moment, I felt like it was. I wasn’t “verbally rude,” but I wasn’t “non-verbally nice” either.
As the checker finished bagging my items, the light bulb above us began to sputter and blink. As it did, I had a mental picture of the light bulb in my room. My frown deepened, and I began mentally composing a zinging letter to all of the light bulb manufacturers in the entire world.
As the bulb burned out and the light around the checkout stand dimmed, I began to feel the convicting presence of the Lord. His Spirit was loving, but it was grieved. As I handed the checker my money, I felt the Lord telling me that I was acting like a sputtering light bulb. I felt the Lord telling me that the checker was someone I would never see again. I had only this moment to touch her life, and I was blowing it. As a Christian, I was called to be a light to the world, but I wasn’t giving off much wattage. I was being as unreliable to the Lord as my bedroom light bulb was being to me.
Blinking a little—and feeling very ashamed—I consigned my mental “zinging” letters to my mental garbage bin. I changed my frown into a smile. I thanked the checker politely for helping me. She smiled back and thanked me for being patient. We both knew that she was just being nice. I hadn’t been patient. I had been a jerk. Her courteous words made me feel lower than a snake’s belly—they also made me feel extremely grateful that I wasn’t wearing my cross necklace or my “Jesus Loves You” t-shirt. At that moment, I was very glad that she had no idea that I was a Christian—how shameful is that???
Gathering my sacks, I left the store—slunk away is a more adequate description of my exit. Although I wasn’t able to be a great witness for the Lord that day, I did learn something important. I’m God’s light bulb whether I like it or not. I’m either going to shine brightly for the Lord, or I’m going to sputter, burn out, and leave the world in darkness. I’m only going to have so many years on this planet. I’ll encounter some people only once in my lifetime. How I act around people is important. Long lines, tight shoes, and hot stores aren’t good excuses for being snotty to strangers… God, please help me to do better next time!!!