Responding with grace towards others who have hurt or wronged us is HARD. Almost humanly impossible and seemingly unjust. I am actually terrible at this. So I’m not really sure why I am attempting to blog about this topic. It’s not like I have answers. But it’s an issue that keeps coming up in my life so I think that perhaps God is trying to teach me something. I’m not sure what, other than: I have a hard time not getting really angry/pouty/passive aggressive when someone does something that goes against my personal rules of conduct (that I assume everyone shares).
Let me tell you about Dragon Lady…
This afternoon I went to a 4 year old birthday party for my daughter. I instantly recognized one of the women there and wanted to hide. It was the same mom who had, many months ago, lit into me in the school parking lot. Some of you guys remember this story:
It was a typical morning for me, late as usual, rushing to drop my kids off at school after everyone else is already at work. That morning, I was so late that there were no other cars in the lot. Call it laziness or just plain efficiency, but instead of parking in one of the appropriately marked spots painted in yellow diagonal lines, I sloppily straddled 3 spots because well, it was the closest place to park from the playground entrance.
I was unbuckling my daughter’s car seat when this woman driving a huge black SUV vroomed up next to me. She leaned out her window and said, “Are you really going to park like that?”
I thought she was kidding. So I laughed.
And then I said something like, “I know, that’s a pretty pathetic parking job, eh?” It was like we were sharing a funny joke.
But she was not joking.
She was dead serious. When I looked up at her and made eye contact, I thought she was about to breathe fire out of her nostrils at me. She glared down at me from her uppity spot in her big fancy Escalade and said something to the effect of: yes, it was a terrible parking job. What were you thinking?
That’s when I felt the anger rise within me. This lady was off her rocker. I mean, come on! She’s pissed at my parking job in an empty lot? What the heck!
I wasn’t going to cause a scene, especially with my daughter right next to me, so I just shot back a sarcastic, “Sorry.”
To which she replied, “No you’re not!”
Seriously. That’s what she said. I was about to start swinging. But by that time, my daughter was out of her car seat and we were walking toward the playground. I watched out of the corner of my eye as Dragon Lady parked her car and started unbuckling her child. That poor child, I thought to myself, living with a dragon for a mother. How could she not turn out to be a dragon herself?
The awkward thing was: we still had to sign our kids in at the playground at the same time. I intentionally lingered at the gate, giving Ellie a syrupy-sweet good-bye and an overly gushing good morning to her teacher. Yes, a little passive aggressive. Trying to heap burning coals on her head, yes I was. Dragon Lady stood next to me, silently fuming as she signed in her child.
Oh, I had so many expletives on the tip of my tongue that I wanted to fire off at her. But God kept my mouth shut. Which was amazing. Because for those of you who know me, that’s a freaking miracle in and of itself.
Why do I share this story? In that instance, I felt wronged. I mean sure, I was breaking some vague rules about parking, but come on, it was an empty lot. But to her, I was obviously breaking some serious rules in her book.
This evening, I thought about Dragon Lady after I had a ferocious battle with the kids over bedtime. They were whiny and demanding and just fighting me on everything. I was pissed. I felt that same surge of anger well up inside me. To the point that after I put them to bed, I had to go outside and run sprints in my backyard. It was 9pm. Yep, that’s what I did. I think I freaked my neighbor out because he thought I was a robber.
My point is this: we all have our inner dragons. That day, that woman seemed way out of line to me. But I know that in some of my worst moments, you guys would think the same about me.
I am learning that in order for me to grow in grace and love towards others, I have to first be willing to admit my own dragons. And once I do, rather than sit in shame or despair or even denial, I can take those things to the cross, to the One who says “come, all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest.”
There is One who is greater than any of our ugliest dragons…