Sometimes people just get under my skin.
Don't you know the feeling? If you're reading this, you're a human, so I'm sure you do, especially those of you who have a job involving some kind of customer service.
As you know by now, I'm a shift leader at the Blimpie inside Wal-Mart in Athens, Ga. Every so often, a certain lady comes in, orders a turkey sandwich, and then stands by the register and begins a conversation with whichever on-duty employee she can get ahold of.
She annoys me on a lot of different levels. For one, it's my job to make sure these employees work efficiently, so I don't like the fact that they're standing around listening to this woman gab. But at the same time, the lady is a frequent customer and she's come to expect talk time as a part of her experience here. I don't want to order her away and tick her off. Then she may never come back. While I wouldn't be disappointed about that, I don't think my bosses would like to hear that I scared away someone who spends money at their store on a regular basis.
It's not only the fact that she's talking that gets on my nerves; the subject matter of her conversations makes me gag a little. Her rants are almost always political in nature, and her commentaries on the issues are some of the most liberal I've ever heard. Being pretty conservative and having voted Republican in the past, it's hard to listen to her tirades without snatching her across the counter. Throw in a few "f-bombs" and the fact that all signs point to her being a homosexual, she starts to try my patience after a few minutes.
She came in yesterday and ordered her "usual," expecting one of our newer employees to know what that is. Then she sounded off. Her first qualm was with the immigration policies of this country. Surprisingly, she wanted the administration to be stricter with its admittance of illegal aliens. Hmmm, I thought, a semi-conservative viewpoint.
But just as I thought she might be seeing the light, she started talking about why she was no longer a practicing Christian. I cringed as I heard the words:
"I was just tired of the hypocrisy." she said. "I was raised Roman-Catholic. The religious right is up in arms about abortion, but why aren't they out there fighting the death penalty? Why aren't they fighting for social justice?"
She wasn't talking to me, so I didn't want to barge into the conversation and say something like, "So you think unborn babies are on the same level as convicted murderers?" or "If you loved Jesus, you wouldn't abandon his church!" I just went on sweeping, fuming inside while maintaining a calm exterior.
It came time to mop the store, and she was eating at a booth near where I mopped. I watched her eat for a second, and God began to work on my heart as only he can. I thought about my attitude toward this woman. Why had I gotten so angry? Why had I directed such animosity her way? I think it's because she had attacked my identity on both a political and religious front, and I reacted with my sinful nature rather than with my redeemed spirit.
God spoke to my heart. It wasn't audible, but this is how I interpreted what was going on within me:
She's a precious person that I have made and that I love. You, who I've saved from sin, have no right not to love her as well and do your best to bring her to me.
With that, my attitude changed completely. When I made my way to her side of the store, we began to talk, and I was free from any ill-will or resentment. In her lostness I saw who I used to be--a child whom God made and loves, but who has not chosen to surrender life and will so that both can be changed.
Thank God that when my heart spills over with pride and judgment, he mops it up with humility and grace.