It's been a hectic week prior to leaving for our group's trip to New Orleans for the ELCA National Youth Gathering. As I've been busily ticking things off my to do list this week, I've experienced a wide variety of emotions. I've had moments of frustration, worry, anger - yes anger, excitement, wonder, hope and joy. All these emotions and the wide variety of them have made me look at this scripture in John where Jesus asks what others think of him.
“Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ And they answered him, ‘John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.’ He asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered him, ‘You are the Messiah.’” Mark 8:27-29 (NRSV)
Who do you say I am?
The other day, I had a frustrating situation while shopping for supplies for a project for this upcoming trip. My time was short and I was trying to work with the staff person at check out in order to receive my tax exempt status for the purchase. I was not carrying the exact form they wanted, but I had MANY forms of identification that proved I worked for a tax exempt organization - but the person refused to look up the information stating it was against state law to do so.
At the utterance of the words, "Against state law." I felt my face go red with anger. The rush of anger took me off guard too - usually I'm easy going! I asked if I got the correct form and brought back my receipt if I could be refunded the tax. The clerk said, "You have to return all the items UNUSED with the receipt and the tax form. Then you may receive tax exempt status."
My face got redder. I told her I'd pay for it as I needed the items that day and rushed out of the store, I'm quite embarrassed to say, in quite a huff.
Days later, I ran into a friend I hadn't seen in several months. After the usual hellos and catching up, she asked me - "By the way, were you shopping in ------ the other day?" I grimaced at the thought of my now passed rush of anger at the clerk and shyly said, "Yes, I was there."
She seemed a little nervious to speak, but said, "I thought it might be you, but I heard the conflict and thought since I've never seen you angry before it couldn't possibly be you."
Yes, it was me. Face turning red, loosing my head, speaking a little to loud at the clerk, and rushing out the door. That was me.
The circumstances were frustrating, but I did not have the correct forms. To be honest, the clerk was only doing her job. I was the one out of line.
Moment like this sometimes remind me of the old show "Candid Camera". Here you are, not behaving in a way that is loving or graceful, let alone kind or polite; and always someone takes note of it. The way I behave is seen by all around me, everyday. Thankfully, I try not to make a habit of blowing my top at clerks in stores. I'm usually easygoing, right?
My point is this, if I was more aware of people around me, would I behave differently? If I care about living like Christ, would I behave differently? As I get ready for this trip, I'm thinking of all the opportunities we'll have to live out our faith in the heat of the big easy. What will people say we are, who I am even if we don't hear them speak it?
I hope this experience while shopping last week will be a good reminder for me to be easygoing and graceful. What response would I like to hear when someone asks who I am? I'd like to hear that I am: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
There is no law - not even tax law against characteristic like these.