I glanced at the clock on my Macbook. 4:00 PM on the dot. After reaching for the keys on my desk, I turned to grab my bag behind my office chair. My feet preceded my thoughts as I headed straight through the classroom door. After a full day of teaching, I was free to focus on my evening plans.
But that line of thought, which was in the direction towards the comforts of my couch, was halted when I realized that I was hungry. Such hunger pangs couldn’t wait for a 30-minute commute home. Of course, it didn’t help that I was PMSing, which ultimately led me to make the final decision to splurge on some unhealthy treats. So coming to a logical conclusion, I drove off my school’s parking lot and headed straight to Jewel-Osco, a well-known grocery store in Chicago.
Once parked, I stepped out of my car and freely left my colossal winter coat in the back seat. There was a surprisingly warm break in the streak of cold weather.
Walking towards the front door entrance of the grocery store, I noticed a man sitting outside the sliding electric doors. He was asking incoming patrons for any spare coins or cash. I had neither.
Cautiously coming up to him, I said with a little base in my voice, so as to be heard over the very brisk Chicago winds, “I can get you something to eat.”
Huh?” he replied.
“I can get you something to eat inside... if you want?”
“Oh okay... Yeah... yeah,” he said.
The man sat and waited for me outside the store. For whatever reason, I felt an unexpected surge of excitement once I walked inside. I wanted to get him something really good.
Hot broccoli cheddar soup or chicken tortilla soup? The choices the choices.
“Hi,” I said to a complete stranger, who proceeded in scooping some soup into his paper bowel.
“Is this soup good.. or is it just okay?“ I asked the man while giving a conspicuous look, demanding the utmost honesty.
After hearing his feedback, I made my final decision and poured the broccoli cheddar into my container.
I really hope he isn’t lactose intolerant.
Then I headed to the bakery section to grab some bread. I envisioned this older man dipping this bread into his hot soup and having it melt in his mouth.
Okay. Let me stop before I get ahead of myself. I’m all set. Actually, wait... who eats without getting something to drink?
Before I knew it, I almost forgot my reasoning for coming into the store in the first place. I said “almost” right? Because to be honest, the idea of eating some quality dark chocolate had been on the back of my mind all day. My hunger was just the perfect excuse to go out and buy it.
I scurried to the check out line and prayed that the gentleman hadn’t thought that I’d forgotten about him. By this time, I’d been inside the store well over 30 minutes.
Bags in hand, I walked out and saw the man in my periphery, seated in a different location along the perimeter of the store.
Excitement quickened my steps.
“Here you go,” I said while proudly extending the brown paper bag towards him, replete with eating utensils and napkins.
“What's this?” he asked.
“It’s some soup and…”
What I thought would be a grateful exchange, turned sour quickly. The man began cursing and stating words not worth mentioning. From the little I gathered, this man didn’t approve of the bag being too bulky.
I snatched my hand away and walked towards my car with his food still gripped tightly around my fingers.
If you’re beginning to feel sorry for me and think I’m a saint and he a jerk, eh thank you, but keep reading.
I prayed in frustration:
Unbelievable God. I mean really. I thought this was something that You wanted for me to do. I thought...well maybe next time. Actually, I’m not done talking. It’s like, he just wasn’t thankful. Man Lord, I can’t believe that though. Here I was trying to make sure that this man could eat and that he had a nice meal. Father, I got sourdough bread. I didn’t just get regular bread...but I got sour…dough.
By the time I reached my car, my spirit was light after rehearsing to the Lord my frustration. The situation actually became comical the more I thought about it.
While driving away, I called my girlfriend and rehashed to her the story. We laughed and went on to discuss different topics. But once I hung up with her, the imagery of this man’s look of grimace and disgust remained etched in my mind. I kept replaying the situation over and over again. And so I began praying for him.
And that’s when the Lord interrupted my thoughts.
The Lord began to remind me of all the detailed thought I executed when deciding this man’s meal.
From wanting to make sure his soup tasted good, to choosing the perfect bread, to carefully pondering a drink to wash down both, to ensuring that this man had all the right eating utensils and napkins, to desperately hoping that this man had waited patiently for me outside.
All this thought. All this time. All my inner excitement to give him what I’d prepared. And for him to complain about the bag being too bulky. I was frustrated. And honestly, even though he was a stranger, I felt hurt.
Remember this, Jessica? I felt the Holy Spirit pressing in on my feeling. But I didn’t understand why.
And then it hit me like a ton of bricks. The thought came out of nowhere, but I knew the Lord was speaking directly to me.
Every time you compare your husband to someone else. Every time you complain to me about what he’s not doing, what he doesn’t have etc., you’re telling me that the gift that I’ve carefully assembled, treasured, and equipped to handle you… is not enough. Consider how much thought and perfection I’ve placed in handing you over to your husband and your husband to you for your possession. Stop comparing. Stop complaining. And thank me for him. His gifts, his talents, his personality, and even his flaws... are meant for you.
I held no anticipation that the Lord would use this strange man to show me myself.
This man was me. God showed me that I was him.
Every time I complain about my husband. Every time I pray to God to make my husband more this or that--prayers stated with nothing to do with God’s glory, the advancement of God’s kingdom, nor growth in my husbands spiritual vitality for the benefit of our family. But selfish prayers uttered with the only motivation to benefit me. When I do this, I’m basically waving my finger at God saying “what You have given me is not enough.”
Whereas I walked away from that incident saying to myself “Ungrateful, ungrateful, ungrateful…” I do the same and often mask it as a prayer request.
The day I tried to feed a man in need, I walked away with a changed perspective.
PonderedThought: Maybe you aren’t married, or perhaps you can’t relate because you and your spouse are simply perfect. But if you can relate, stop selfishly complaining in your head against your spouse. Because when you do, you may be hurting the very heart of God by implicitly saying, “what You gave me wasn’t good enough.” Instead, pray fervently for him or her. For God loves your spouse just as much as He loves you. Ponder on that thought.
(Blog post describes a memory experienced years ago, and yet still reflected upon due to its received revelation.)