“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Doesn’t it seem like whenever you’re trying to change something about yourself, something always happens to test it?
I definitely ran into this problem yesterday, running errands with my roommate. We went on our monthly shopping spree to get supplies (laundry detergent, paper towels – the exciting stuff), but to do that we have to take an elevator up to the store. Some days it’s a long wait, other days it’s really quick, but either way, we join the other wheelchairs and strollers to get upstairs. Yesterday, the elevator was packed. Insanely packed. The whole group waiting couldn’t even fit on, but despite that, just as the doors were closing, this lady comes elbowing in. She had no children, and seemed perfectly able-bodied – she’d just run and caught the elevator, after all. Forget the fact that the escalator was 5 feet away, forget the fact that either way you’re just standing there and no matter which way you go up you still don’t have to climb a step; no, this lady was bound and determined to come on the elevator, at the expense of the ribs and sternums of everyone else.
So she elbows her way in, the doors shut, and up we go. However, when we get to the top, the doors open on the opposite side of the elevator. So this lady, who had elbowed her way in and was barely squeezed in by the door, was now in the back. Does she wait for the strollers and wheelchairs to maneuver themselves out? No. No she does not, and instead continues elbowing her way out the elevator. Honestly, she expended more energy elbowing all of us than she would have spent walking the extra 5 feet to the escalator. Anyway, this sounds minor, but for me, it’s a huge pet peeve. My roommate, for instance, uses a wheelchair because he has a disability. He can’t walk (hence the chair) but he also has a tough time moving in general. A tough time moving in general means he can’t turn his head around to see who is coming up behind him. This results in a blind spot. So if there’s a kamikaze elevator lady coming at him, there’s a very real chance he won’t see her and could run her over. A motorized wheelchair weighs a solid 300 pounds. Which is decidedly less than a car, and honestly if I had to get run over by something I’d choose the wheelchair any day….but really it’s best to just avoid running over people, wouldn’t you say? But that’s hard to do when somebody you didn’t was there steps right in front of the wheel. Plus, there’s the issue of coming too close to him. If you stand or walk too close, you run the risk of bumping his arm. Which is perfectly positioned over his joystick so that he can drive the chair. Which is lovely, when he wants to move. But when his joystick is being driven by accident in a crowded space because somebody hip-checked him, well….let’s just say it has disaster written all over it. It’s the equivalent of driving in a crowded parking lot and having your passenger reach over and jerk the wheel hard. You could crash into anything and it’s not in your control at all.
Side note: people, when you’re out in public, please please please try extra hard to respect the personal bubble of a wheelchair user. I beg you. The world will be a better place. I promise.
Anyway, this lady didn’t just shove us, either. She made no distinction between patron with disability and new mother. She didn’t care where she stepped, who she stepped on, or whose way she got in, as long as she got off the elevator first.
But she did eventually get out, and the rest of us followed suit. So, into the store we go. But sure enough, once we’re in and start shopping, I see the same lady in one of the aisles. It just so happened I needed to reach over her for something. She was standing there reading labels and browsing, and I needed something on the top shelf where she was. So, I said ‘excuse me’ and asked her if I could get in there to grab it. She didn’t move, so I ended up trying to reach around her. Again, not a big deal. Except it quickly became one. I’m short, and even with a straight path, the top shelf is not an easy reach for me. I didn’t have a straight shot here, because the lady wouldn’t move. So I grabbed what I needed, but by mistake I knocked over the item next to it. Of course I did. And of course it fell from the top shelf, right onto the lady’s shoulder. I’m not sure if it hurt as much as all our ribs from being elbowed by her, but she reacted as if I’d shot her. I apologized, but she kept rubbing her shoulder and saying how much I’d hurt her and looking at me like I’d thrown something at her.
Even though I apologized and felt genuinely bad for hurting her, her reaction had me seething. She could have avoided the problem by taking one step back. She purposely didn’t. Her action was deliberate, and mine was a mistake. And honestly, by that time I was starting to think she deserved a thump in the shoulder after all the trouble she’d caused the rest of us.
It wasn’t until afterwards that I realized this was a perrrrfect opportunity to exercise the “Love is patient” part of this passage, and that I’d failed completely. If she wouldn’t get out of my way, I should have been patient enough to wait for her to be done. If she was acting so miserable, I should have been patient enough to have a heart to love her anyway. I missed the boat completely, because I was focused on myself and my errand and not on Jesus. Could He have used me in that moment? I have no idea. I’ll never know because I gave Him no chance to.
But if nothing else, this incident served to show me how quickly little everyday moments can become a test. And not just a test; it’s these everyday moments that allow us to walk out what we preach. As for me, God has called me to a time of prayer, fasting, and focus on 1 Corinthians 13, to redefine my walk and bring it further into submission of what love is. If my reaction to that lady was any indication, it’s a good thing He is!!! I know God is being patient with me, and will guide me through these revelations and opportunities. Still, I hope I do better next time!