(Here’s a little story that happened a while back. I’ve shared it with some of my friends who really seemed to love it. So now I share it with you… Enjoy!)
Have you ever been wronged and then retaliated and felt worse than you did before? Has God ever convicted your heart to admit your sin and to forgive someone else?
On a cold, crisp, Monday in March, I woke up, went through my morning rituals, and then around 7:00, set off for some wooded property to run a few laps on one of my favorite paths. It was 29° outside so I decided to go to Kroger and pick up some milk and orange juice before I ran, hoping the temperature would warm up a few degrees. I got 4- 1-gallon jugs (About 2 days worth of milk for my three sons!) and walked up to the front of the store.
They didn’t have the express lanes open; only one regular line. The problem–there were more than a handful of customers waiting. I didn’t have a buggy and my hands were freezing so I asked a gentleman in front of me if I could set them down at the end of the conveyor. He said yes, so I did.
We stood in line for several minutes. I was a wee bit frustrated that they didn’t have more lines open.
I watched the lady who was doing the checkouts. She looked to be about 65-70 years old. She wasn’t smiling. She didn’t say hello to anyone and went about her job in a very slow, uncheerful way. When I finally got up to her, I handed her my Kroger Plus card. She snatched it out of my hand, swiped it, and handed it back without even looking up.
I walked to the card-swiper, swiped my debit card, and decided to get $20 back for lunch. I completed my portion of the transaction. The machine then prompted me to ask the cashier to do her part. She said to me: “You didn’t try to get cash back, did you,” in a rather rude tone. I told her I did. She told me they didn’t do cash until after 7:30 a.m. “Store policy.”
I told her that she should have told me that. She said I should have read the sign, which she pointed to, which was handwritten and about 3 feet away. She then told me that she didn’t have any money.
I asked her what the heck I was supposed to do. She rolled her eyes at me, huffed, and opened her register. I saw it was full of money. She grabbed 2-$10 bills, WADDED them up, and threw them at me.
I said: “Thank you for such a lovely attitude this morning.” She said it was because she had to deal with people like me…
I took two steps, turned around and said, “Kiss my – – -, lady. You don’t talk to me that way.” I’m quite sure steam was coming out of my ears and nostrils at that point. But at the same time, it shocked me that I would say something like that to anyone, much less a woman her age. I was hot—my temper was flaring.
I told her to get the manager. She told me there weren’t any managers there. Then told me I needed to learn how to read…
That did it. I saw a guy who looked like a manager walking towards the front of the store. I yelled out to him, asking if he was the manager. He reluctantly answered that he was. He walked over and I told him that he needed to teach his employees how to treat their customers. She yelled over that she hadn’t done anything wrong. I told him to ask any of the customers–who, by the way were all standing there in line wide-eyed at the spectacle they were witnessing!
He told me he would “fix the problem.”
I left the store shaken; first that someone would treat me that rudely, but secondly, and more importantly, shaken that I would say anything like that to anyone. I was shocked that words and thoughts like that were in me, waiting for an opportunity to come out.
And then the thought came to mind, “If you squeeze an orange, what comes out? Orange juice…” What came out of me? A phrase like that… What do I have in me, I asked?
I was shaken. I thought I was past that kind of anger in my life. I went to the path and began to run. During my 35-minute run through the woods I became more and more convicted that I shouldn’t have said what I did. That in fact, I was wrong, that there were still things in me that were so dirty. I kept saying, “No Lord, it’s not me, its her…” But God was telling me differently.
All day I struggled. Should I apologize to her or should I just forget it? What if someone I knew saw me behaving that way? (Shame!) Who was really at fault here?
I did not have a perfect day…
I prayed as I went to bed that God would help me and give me some wisdom in this situation.
The next morning I got up at 5:45 and went to the gym to workout. It was a beautiful morning. I left the gym about 7:05 and started home. I had spent my time during the ride praying and thanking God for the glorious day to come.
During the ride, God told me that I would be riding right by the Kroger. (“Oh no…”) You must understand, God didn’t speak out loud. But I clearly heard his voice. He told me I needed to apologize to the lady. “No God…”
Matthew 7:3-5 came to mind:
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
But I was thinking, “No, God, I don’t want to go in there. What if there are a lot of people in line like there was yesterday? What if I humiliate myself? What if she gets mad at me in front of everyone? I don’t know how she’s going to react.”
God said go. I know when God speaks to me, and I clearly hear his voice, I’d better do what he says. It tends to work out better that way—whether at the time I see it or not.
I pulled in the parking lot, walked in the door, and was praying the whole time.
There she stood at the same cash register. There was one gentleman in her line finishing his transaction. I walked around a couple of registers. When I walked to her aisle, no one was there.
She looked up, her mouth dropped open, and her eyes got big.
I smiled at her. I told her I was the man who yelled at her yesterday. I told her that I had come back to apologize.
…She smiled at me. I didn’t really know what to say, so I told her I was a Christian and that yesterday wasn’t how I wanted to live my life.
I asked her if she would forgive me.
She reached over her counter, grabbed me by the neck, wrapped her arms around me and hugged me. She told me that it was her fault and that she was sorry too. I hugged her back.
I walked out of the store with my head held a little higher and my heart restored. For some reason, the sun even seemed to be a little brighter than when I’d walked in, a couple of minutes before!
The lesson? I had done what God asked me to do and he had given me wisdom. I did what was very uncomfortable, trusting him, and had he blessed me with peace.