A quote is attributed to some philosopher guy named Seneca that says, “As long as you live, keep learning how to live.” As a Christian, it is AWESOME that we can read the same Bible all our lives and learn something new every day! Most of all, I’m thankful that God’s mercies are new every day. Or as Anne of Green Gables puts it, ” … a new day with no mistakes in it … yet.”
On Monday I learned yet another lesson that I need to write down so I can remember:
Thinking back, I think I was always kind of “proud” of being humble. It’s hard to explain! But anyway, I think about when we were first married, I was proud be married to my husband, a young Army officer, who at the very beginning was on the “fast track” in his career. And yet, I never thought of myself better than anyone else. And that’s God’s honest truth. My friends in those early years of those mandatory Army functions I had to go to and the Family Support Group meetings we needed to attend were usually the First Sergeant’s wife (because my husband valued their husbands more than anyone!) or any other young wife not among my own “peers”. I just felt more comfortable with them than the women who wore their husbands’ ranks on their own shoulders. (Not to stereotype and even just mentioning this makes me feel a little unfair to ALL the good people who believed “people were people” when the Army just happened to kind of divide us among the ranks – for its purposes.)
When God clearly moved us out of the military, He moved my husband into another position of influence as the administrator of a small school. I was proud of the fact that he wanted to make a difference and was willing to give up a secure retirement in order to serve people. If anything, we were the servants; my husband always emphasized the fact that he was just there as support personnel to help his staff to do the job they already did so well. Our kids didn’t deserve any more privilege than any other child that attended the school. It was easy to be humble because we had the control. We were choosing to act as we did, sincerely trying to do it well.
It wasn’t until we lost that status or that privilege and had ZERO control during a long time of uncertainty and gradual regression in our financial situation that I examined myself very closely. Trouble tends to draw out the REAL you. It kind of leaves you exposed and vulnerable. It was a true humbling … the kind where you *know* you have NOTHING … but God.
However, my ugly, sinful heart often remains in its old judgmental patterns learned a long time ago. I can’t blame the churches I grew up in, but sometimes the sermons I heard – whether intended or not – caused me to think that we were “better” because we lived holier. We didn’t do this “sin,” and we did have that “godly behavior.” We were “righteous” … we lived “righteous.” God was pleased when we were “righteous.” But it tended to make me feel a little self-righteous (something my judgy self is quick to point out in other Christians, ironically!!). It was a seed of pride. [It also led me to a lot of false guilt and feeling like I never could really measure up to that righteousness and a lot of other issues with God and Christianity that I’ve had to work through – but that’s for another 4,000 blog posts to share how I have grown away from that.]
OK, so back to my point: I do have tendencies to judge; I do have tendencies to divide people into groups of “worthy” and “unworthy”. Thankfully, I have a husband who genuinely doesn’t do that – he honestly treats the janitor, his patients at the mental health clinic where he works, or the parent of a struggling student with the same respect and dignity as he would the pastor of a church or the President! Thanks to him and some really precious, pure-hearted friends, I have seen my sin of judging based on MY OWN criteria. But I’ll admit I still do it!
So, there are certain pharmacy patients we have now that I DREAD to see come in (the same was true for me when I was a school secretary of some parents). I can put on a “fake” nice for them, but deep down inside, I’d just as soon avoid them. That’s NOT what Jesus would do, I’m sure. And I have already been TRULY humbled because of this attitude of mine – because God has revealed to me a few times how WRONG I AM. Even before we moved to Arkansas, I was humbled to find a sincere ally in a person who I thought I could never be friends with because she just annoyed me (in my judgy-ugly estimation). Suddenly, she and I were much in the “same boat” – and SURPRISE – God used her in my life (and I’d hope vice versa) to get us through the end of that time in Missouri. I had to admit it to her … mainly just as an apology that I never reached out to her until the end (I don’t think I ever admitted that she annoyed me! ha!).
So, there’s this elderly patient who comes in to the pharmacy regularly. She’s loud and talky and has some “different” opinions and ideas that she shares boldly. Of course, I automatically put her in the category of “annoying” because she is SO SO SO opposite of what I am. BUT here’s what God has shown me over and over: IT IS OFTEN THOSE WHO ARE THE COMPLETE OPPOSITE OF ME WHO TEACH ME THE MOST!!
On Monday, this same elderly patient came in to fill some medication, and as it was a non-busy time, she began to talk to me and the pharmacist I work with. And she shared some AMAZING stuff about her life – she’d been a special education teacher and even had a doctorate degree. She talked about having 2 severely handicapped grandchildren she’d taken in because the parents couldn’t handle them. She shared some stories that almost made me cry because of her compassion and knowledge. I WAS IN AWE – this woman, given a chance for me to open my heart to her, was INSPIRING. When she left, my pharmacist and I both just looked at each other and said, “Wow!”
And then I ate my humble pie. I dreaded this woman coming in – but from now on, you’d better believe I will look forward to it! I am learning in my own old age to not underestimate the knowledge of someone who has lived outside the nice, tidy, “righteous” Christian bubble that I’ve grown up in and tend to live in (even though I find my bubble rather restricting at times … I want to live safely in it on MY OWN terms, I guess).
And actually I’ve learned this lesson before as I’ve met so many, many people who are not like me, didn’t come from where I came from, and may not even believe exactly as I do: I can still be friends. I can still learn something – and share something. I blame my introversion on not being able to open myself up to everyone – and my introvert bubble is so warm and safe and without drama – but sometimes, I need to take a chance on someone. Many of my best friends are not at all like me in personality … but they offer me so much in drawing me out of myself.
There will always be annoying people in my life – and anyone’s life – particularly if one works with the public … and I prefer to just protect myself from them. But I hope I will remember this lesson, and at least be OPEN to getting to know a few more of them.