I was standing in the entryway of the supermarket looking for bars on my cell phone so I could read a text my husband sent with recipe ingredients for my shopping excursion. To the right of me I caught the sight of a woman struggling to get out of the seat of a motorized shopping cart. She had two grocery bags and a walker in the basket.
“Do you need help?” I was still holding the phone in my hands when I approached her. She answered yes, that she needed a regular shopping cart to take the place of the motorized one. As I transferred her heavy grocery bags and her walker over to a regular cart while she slowly moved her body toward the handles, she told me her story of how she started the year off by busting her kneecap. I know she went into some detail about it and then proceeded to describe how she gets home with her groceries, but by then I had glanced down at my cell phone. The screen was an eerie white with funky colored print – the words LOCKED and REBOOT stuck out at me among other letters and numbers. What the -- ?
The woman was still talking as I stood staring at my phone screen. Wait. Had she just said she pushes the cart with her groceries and her walker up a hill? Had she just said she’s got it all figured out? Had I just mumbled something like – wow, that’s crazy – or some other completely noncommittal phrase to end the conversation?
By the time it registered to me that all I had to do was remove the battery and restart the phone, she had trudged away. I don’t even know if she thanked me for the little help I had been. I hope she didn’t, because as I stepped back into the store I wasn’t feeling very good about the whole interaction.
I joke sometimes that there are moments in life when all I can think is, This is a test, Lord, right? Those moments are mostly because I’m struggling with something, feeling frustrated and stuck. Rarely if ever have they been because I stood in front of an opportunity to help someone else. It has always been about me.
But this was Holy Saturday, the day before Easter when we celebrate Jesus' resurrection. This was a matter of hours prior to singing in an Easter Vigil service where we would ring bells and shout Alleluia. This was… a test. And I failed.
With all good intentions I had made an offer to help a stranger. She hadn’t asked - she was just struggling to do what she had conditioned herself to do for the past few months. It seemed at the time like a win-win situation. I could do a good deed and she would be all set. Except she wasn’t all set. She still had a huge barrier to overcome, one that I could have helped her with, but my good deed-ishness had stopped there in the entryway of that supermarket.
Of course, I didn’t have to offer at all. Our lives are full of “Didn’t have to” decisions. God gives us choice. I won’t say that was poor judgment on His part but I have to wonder if He doesn’t do a lot of head shaking because of it.
Peter, whom Jesus loved, was a big stumbling lug. He tried so hard and he never got it right. He wanted to be Jesus’ favorite, his confidante and his rock. Instead, Peter spent much of his time with Jesus second guessing himself, needing a slight rebuke from the man he swore he would die for... and instead denied.
Like Peter, I am God’s child, full of flaws and wrong moves. I stammer through expressing my faith. I second-guess myself and Him. I pray, I let go, and then I grab hold again of my biggest issues, as if God couldn’t possibly know how I want it handled.
I always struggle with emotion through the readings of Palm Sunday, fully enveloping myself in them, actually cringing when, as the crowd at the cross, our congregation must yell out, “Crucify him!” during the reading of the Passion. Like Peter, I don’t always know how to carry that same connection with God into my daily life. I recognize only a small part of my mistakes, but He continues to love me and to let me make them.
I get Peter, because I don’t always get it. So what better day to acknowledge that I am God’s instrument… and that every day He fine tunes me all over again.