By Sara Bettinger--
It was one of those days at the grocery store where there were only two check out lanes open, and I was standing in one of the lines on a “6 feet apart” sticker that snaked down the cereal aisle. I was already taking deep breaths, planning how I would race to my car so I could get home, unload groceries, and start the drop-kids-off-at-sports driving of the evening.
Twenty minutes had already passed when a new cashier walked in front of my cart and motioned me to come to a new check-out line she was opening (yay!). I maneuvered my cart to follow her when another gentleman raced over from the pasta aisle and cut me off. Maybe he didn’t see me - he certainly acted like he didn’t, but maybe he did. I heard a “hmmph” behind me and realized that the lady behind me in the cereal aisle line had followed me to the new line.
There is nothing remarkable about this story. Something like this has probably happened many times to everyone reading this. But this time, before I could look behind me and exchange self-righteous (“we would never do that!”) glances with the lady behind me, I heard that still, small voice inside me saying, “This is an invitation. I’m giving you an invitation to exercise patience. There are invitations being offered to you all the time.”
We Christians like to say stuff like,“Don’t pray for patience because the Lord is just going to put you into situations where you have to use it!” But this time I saw it more like we all have patience muscles, and this was an opportunity to give it a workout and strengthen it.
So I took a few more deep breaths and looked around me, noticing the flowers, the covers of the magazines, the faces of the people who live in my area and shop at this particular Fred Meyer. I thought about how fortunate I was to be able to buy a cart of groceries, have a cozy home to cook them up in, and a family I love to share them with. I thought about the pantry ministry of the church and of churches and organizations all around the city and prayed for resources, encouragement, strength and grace for them. I thanked God for a healthy body that can zip through the grocery store, pushing a loaded cart and for the ability to read and write my grocery list. By the time I reached the cashier, I had a real smile to give her - even though she couldn’t see it behind my mask.
My prayer and desire has repeatedly been to see and experience God everywhere - in all the mundane, little bits of life. There was something about the idea of there always being invitations offered to me, to us, that has been steeping in my soul since that day at the grocery store. I find myself looking at the repetitive parts of my life (there are many) and trying to see the invitation.
Sometimes I’m surprised that the invitation is to joy and enjoyment - to set down my responsibility-driven personality and play “Bop-It” with my family. Sometimes the invitation is to recognize my irritation and apologize for how it was seeping out and to equip my kids to call me on it. Many times there is an invitation to trust that God is present in suffering or is there for the wayward and won’t abandon them. There is always an invitation is to be honest and thankful.
Paul’s letters have been like exercise weights to use to strengthen those “muscles” of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. I try to let myself get really honest with God - “I’m so angry about______!” And then I rehearse scripture to myself:
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
“In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
What invitations are being offered to you these days? What “muscles” are getting exercised? May we all have eyes to see and ears to hear the invitations He’s offering us.