Sitting at my desk this afternoon, I started at the exclamation. My first thought was to wonder who uttered the crude epithet. Immediately, I realized that the word had come from my mouth. Mine!
I don’t call my customers names. Well, not out loud anyway. But the man who had just walked out the door of my music store had pushed all the wrong buttons before his exit, and I was fed up. I hadn’t even been the one to wait on him. Come to think of it, he hadn’t actually been rude to the Lovely Lady, who was. So, why was I so upset?
I was angry because of the way he treated his daughter, making snide comments about her recently acquired interest in music. As he sarcastically replied to her obvious exuberance, it was clear that he thought he was being witty. But this went deeper than a little smart mouthing. He was belittling his own little girl in front of other people. How does a father do that to his baby?
“Jerk!” I said it again, almost enjoying the way it popped from my lips as my clenched teeth parted and my jaw moved downward. But before I had a chance to say it again, memories of my own crowded my head.
I fell silent. I’m not even sure that I’m ready to talk again now.
No, I’m not going to share a little morality tale from my past. Some memories are best left as memories, and not changed to narratives. That doesn’t mean that they don’t rear their ugly heads to teach an unwelcome personal lesson now and again. These particular ones will stay personal, thanks.
I have quite a few of those unsightly reminders of my past stored away in my old hard noggin. It really doesn’t take all that much to get the replay tape rolling, and this insensitive customer wasn’t the first person to bring them to the forefront of my thoughts today.
I awoke this morning to a message from a friend. I don’t think I could exaggerate my respect for this lady, a creative and thoughtful soul. Her words were meant to encourage–and they did that–but they also dredged up a me I would rather leave buried deep in my yesterdays.
As I looked reluctantly at the me her note brought to mind, I may or may not have shed a tear or two. Nobody likes to see themselves through the unkind lens of reality and time. But the present was calling, so I girded up my loins–I mean, I got dressed, washed my face and my hair, and I went to work, thinking all the while about this process of being made into the people that our Creator intended for us to be.
The process is painful, and not easy. In the easy times, the fat times, we grow complacent and smug. By fat times, I mean the times when things come without effort and it seems that we are in control. It is easy then to believe that we are the captain of our vessel, the king of the mountain. We learn almost nothing in these times, because we see no need of anything beyond ourselves.
But, then come the hungry times, the hard times, and we realize that we are weak and needy. Why is it that God works with such power in these times? And why do they have to come so very often?
The day seemed determined to make sure that I learned this lesson. Late this evening, I headed out for my walk with a smile on my face, telling the Lovely Lady that I would return soon.
The Internet radio playing in my headphones wiped the smile off my face with the first song.
The voice I heard was Laura Story’s, her clear youthful tones seemingly belying the words, singing “Blessings.” You will find a very short excerpt of the lyrics quoted below.
The reminder that we want good things, but that we grow the most in the absence of those very things, was almost too much for me today. I was glad that it was nighttime, because the darkness compassionately hid my face from public view as once again a tear or two may have come. It certainly wouldn’t do to be seen crying on the street, would it?
I still don’t like it. But, I am starting to get it.
And what about my buddy, the jerk? I trust that the day will come, sooner rather than later, when his actions are those unwelcome memories reminding him of what he once was. Perhaps, these are the hard and hungry times for him. Time will tell.
And, what of the other jerk in this little tale? Am I on easy street from here on out? Lessons learned, smooth sailing all the way to the horizon?
Hardly. I stand here, on a downhill slide to old age, but just now beginning–that’s right–beginning to grasp the most remedial of lessons the Teacher has for me. I see a bumpy few years ahead.
I wonder if there are any other jerks out there who might be willing to tag along with me.
It seems that I might need a shoulder to cry on once in awhile.
Love is way too much to give us lesser things.
What if Your blessings come through raindrops?
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near?
(from “Blessings” ~ Laura Story ~ American singer/songwriter)
When life takes the wind out of your sails, it is to test you at the oars.
(Robert Brault ~ American free-lance writer)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2013. All Rights Reserved.
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