For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and He chastises everyone He receives as a son.
God in His providence orders some of the difficult earthly experiences of His children. He does this as a loving Father so that we grow in holiness and reap peace in our hearts. That is why the Bible exhorts us to count it all joy when we go through various trials, and to give thanks in everything. Do I need to learn how to do this? Yes, indeed. It doesn’t come naturally to me to maintain a thankful attitude when my car breaks down at a busy intersection or when the coffee I was dying for is lukewarm or when my fibromyalgia flares up on a vacation. It is all too easy to let acidity spring up, like soursobs in a garden – the garden of our lives that should diffuse the fragrance of Christ. Recently, I had one of those experiences that try us and show us how we are travelling.
I had to hurry through my grocery shopping that day. Usually I like to take my time, checking out the specials, looking for a treat or two, planning meals in my head. However my daughter, who accompanies me, had a doctor’s appointment at 11am. and we had already lingered over coffee too long. I pushed my trolley down the aisles at a brisk pace, grabbing the usual items and not bothering with extras. At least I’ll save some money this week, I thought.
On the way to the checkout, I saw my daughter heading out the door towards the car with her trolley. I fished my mobile phone out of my bag and checked the time. Good! At 10.45, I just had time to put my groceries through then get dropped off at home in time for my daughter to make her appointment. I quickly unloaded my items onto the conveyor belt and leaned on the handles of the trolley, waiting for the lady before me to finish up. She and the checkout operator were having a lively conversation. Oh no, not today! I thought. As the woman pulled her card out of her purse, she continued on with her story with great enthusiasm. Wind it up, wind it up! The checkout operator took the card and stood listening with it in her hand, a smile on her face. She asked the customer a question, and the woman answered at length. Then the checkout operator remembered the card and did the transaction, but the woman, still chatting vivaciously, had apparently no intention of moving anytime soon. Can’t you see me here, waiting, my ham slices and yogurt warming up?
This is a test, I thought. I had found myself in a very similar situation about a year ago and I had not handled it too well. Drumming my fingers, inwardly fuming, I had eventually moved my trolley with determination towards the customer so that she had to get out the way. She’d looked offended and the checkout lady had flushed with embarrassment. Lord, help me to do better this time, I silently prayed. I picked up a magazine and gently flipped through it, waiting for them to finish their conversation. I bet the checkout operator gets bored in here at times, I thought. And maybe the woman has to go back to an empty house. I made an effort to smile calmly as I watched them. Gradually, I felt serenity and patience come over me. What did it really matter if I was a bit late? Doctors are rarely running on time anyway. My daughter wouldn’t mind, she was more laid-back than me. I waited politely until the woman had moved on, then wheeled my trolley through the checkout. The operator smiled at me and asked how my day had been.
“Just fine”, I replied. And it was.