If you’ve ever shopped at an Aldi grocery store, you know they have this cute European practice of letting you borrow a shopping cart for a quarter. People, particularly American ones in East Texas, are still figuring this out. Often, I host impromptu trainings at the Aldi buggy corral, showing people how to insert the quarter, unlock the buggy, then how to get their quarter back.
Yesterday, after returning my cart, I was showing a fella how to do this. Once he got it, he began slapping his pockets for a quarter. When he came up short, I handed him mine. He looked surprised and a little sheepish, like I’d just handed him a twenty. I smiled and told him to have a nice day.
I tell you that story, not to thrill you with my incredible generosity, but to provide an object lesson in loving people when you don’t feel like it. No scratch that. Loving people when you feel like throwing a temper tantrum and banging your head on the curb.
A few hours earlier, I was on the phone with AT&T about my new wireless service. When my bill tripled, I figured I should call them. I won’t bore you with the details, but here's an excerpt from the conversation:
“I’m just going to be honest with you," the rep said. "I’ve worked here for six years and I’ve never seen an account as screwed up as yours.”
Awesome, I thought, as he transferred me to “The Resolution Department.”
Nearly two hours later I hung up, cried a little and began my day.
Between that call and shopping at Aldi, I had a doctor’s appointment then a lab test, for which I waited an hour and saw about three gallons of blood drain from my arm. On top of that, Sam was annoyed that our new AT&T tv doesn’t have the Weather Channel.
Fed up, I crafted a bitchy text to my doctors office complaining about the lab. I was about to send it, when my finger stalled over the button.
“What does this achieve?” I asked myself. “Is this who you are? Indignant? Entitled? One who spreads bad chi to unsuspecting people?”
Nope. Sigh. Delete.
And that’s when I realized, all of it was a test.
Will I actively love people when my own day
has felt like eating a plate of gravel?
One reason I think people abandon Christianity (I'm looking at you Millennials) is many of us Jesus-followers are super caught up in the grand gestures of the faith - shall I work in Africa? What is my calling? How do I evangelize a generation? - while ignoring the quotidian acts of love and service as somehow less important.
It's easy to forget that giving someone a quarter when they need it, is love. Praying for a crying stranger on a bus is love. Withholding your opinion on a matter outside your purview - particularly a hot and alienating one - is love.
I think Millennials in particular don't need to be sold a better version of Christianity, they just need to see us living the real one - in the sacrifice, the fullness, the courage and the victory Jesus promised. Are we doing that? Are we modeling love and sacrifice everywhere?
Nobody who really lives like Jesus ever needs to hustle him. They're naturally attractive.
My new favorite evangelist Jill Briscoe put it like this:
Choose a better response.
So the quarter became the first of five small things I did that afternoon to spread kindness and love, and not once did I feel like it.
Viktor Frankl, the Austrian psychiatrist and holocaust survivor who wrote the fabulous Man’s Search for Meaning (seriously, pick it up) said, the last, inviolable human freedom is the ability to choose our response, regardless of how barbaric the stimulus. He and Jesus know something about that.
My impulse was to barf my sad story up all day, but I didn’t. Instead I subjected that impulse to my values, two of which are kindness and joy.
That is not being fake, people. That is being disciplined.
As Jesus followers, we are known only by our love, not by what we call ourselves. What kind of tree we are is known only by the fruit it produces. Can a fig tree produce olives? Can a grapevine bear figs? If I call myself a follower of Jesus, I must bear love, even when I don't feel like it.
So Try this:
What are your core values? What fruit do you want growing on your tree? Maybe you’ve never thought about it (we’ll talk about that a bunch at Intermissionary) so brainstorm a few.
Say one of yours is excellence. As you go through your day, notice when your default approach is to make something passable or just ok. Ask yourself, what would excellence look like? Then do that instead. This is how you subject your impulses to your values.
It's how we stop talking about Jesus and start being like him.