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January 7, 2008

I had an inspiring experience Saturday at Panera. It was inspiring the way seeing a relatively healthy person die of cancer, heart attack, stroke, etc. will inspire you to eat leaner and take evening walks more often (at least for a while). It was horrifying as it happened, three days later it’s still plaguing me, and I’m hoping the effect will be to throw me violently in the opposite direction.

It was a typical Saturday afternoon. I’d been cleaning since the moment I woke up – taking necessary breaks to eat, take care of my toes, read a bit, and finish a letter. I’d just had lunch for one because Timothy was out on errands, and was feeling like I needed to leave the apartment. The place was mostly clean, there were administrative tasks swimming through my head, I felt like an apres-midi tea, and 2 – 4 PM is the best time to go to Panera anyway.

I got tea and a shortbread cookie and headed to my usual table in the back where I know there is an electrical outlet in case the battery on the Mac gets low. Like a mouse so focused on a morsel of cheese she didn’t recognize the trap it was sitting on …

I ran into an old acquaintance. “Lovely,” I thought to myself. “I will have green tea, shortbread, and a lesson on love for here.” Really. At the outset, my stomach did not twist into a knot and my palms remained freezing cold and very dry, as they tend to be in winter.

I smiled. I maintained eye contact. I asked clarifying questions. I did not interrupt. I did not offer information about myself until asked, and when I did, followed it with a question diverting attention back to the other individual. I was a pillar of patience, a textbook lesson in active listening, and a model of compassion. I was all of these things as I made mental notes such as, “Red flag.” “Hmm – completely unbiblical.” “I do not receive that.” “Don’t even nod at that comment.” “Contrary to God’s nature.” “That completely contradicted what was said five minutes ago.”

And then I lost it. Not outwardly, of course – although I deliberately became less patient, less attentive and a tad colder. As you might expect one to, having been stunned by the quick release of a spring and pinned down by a cold, metal bar to the neck.

Said individual – vaguely familiar with what Church in the Word was some three years ago – began to ask presumptuous questions about my church, my pastor, and my friends. I bragged about all three with no small amount of enthusiasm, and at the same time won the Better Listener award of the day. My glad acquaintance proceeded to critique our family, advise how we might be come more like his/hers, and predict our downfall if we don’t comply. It was stunning.

It was also completely, wholly, and absolutely by the grace of God that I managed to bite my tongue. Especially when this person told me it was probably an act of God that brought me to that table at Panera at just the right time to hear that “message,” and then asked me what my name is.

Despite my frustration, and the knot that only yesterday finally left my stomach, the moral of the story was, “Read your Bible.” I knew the antagonist was wrong, and I knew I didn’t need to defend myself. All the way home I tried to bless that person and prayed the Lord would bring him/her into His word, where the truth could be revealed to a misguided heart.

And then I realized it’d been a couple days since I’d read my own Bible …

One Comment leave one →
  1. jeffie permalink
    January 8, 2008 6:28 pm

    definately NOT weak sauce. My flesh desires to know who it was because i have a feeling i know who but ultimately you are right, I just need to know Jesus and read my bible :)

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