Come on, come ON! I seethed inwardly as I watched the cashier ring up 20 individual Yoplait cartons v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y before placing them carefully in an insulated bag the customer had brought for just such an occasion. Really? Who does that anyhow? I always get the slowest line! I bounced my baby in the infant carrier to keep him calm as I took candy away from my two-year-old who was grabbing it from the check out selection, all the while impatiently eyeing the progress of the lady ahead of me. When it was our turn at last the cashier said brightly, “I see you’ve got your helpers with you!” “Mmm-hmm,” I said with a polite but tight smile, hoping she’d get the hint and just start ringing up my items. No such luck. “I know all about that,” she continued. “My grandkids always want to come over to ‘help’ me ever since my open heart surgery earlier this year.” Whoa. Hold the phone. You had heart surgery this year and you’re back here already? Suddenly I felt ashamed. My minor irritation at waiting a few extra minutes in line with my kids was instantly small potatoes compared to open heart surgery. So she wasn’t ringing up the items in record time. Maybe she couldn’t ring them up and bag them any faster. Recovery takes time, after all. And even if she was just naturally slow, hey, maybe she was lonely and simply enjoyed talking to her customers. At any rate, she deserved a bit of grace from me.
How many of you can relate? It’s easy to get impatient when others don’t live up to our own expectations or when we have to wait on their account. Just the other week I sat in the doctor’s office with three of my children for a full 45 minutes past the appointment time, and it was only 9:00 in the morning. If they were that far behind already, I’d hate to see how long the afternoon folks had to wait! I was impatient, and by the time we finally got called back I was more than a bit annoyed. My son was missing the better part of the morning’s classes by now. Ah, but wait. It’s also hard to be the one who’s slowing things down. The nurse apologized immediately and explained that two staff members had called in that morning with sick kids, so the nurses had to double up and do twice as many appointments each. And on top of that, they knew that everyone who came back to the exam rooms would be irritated at the delay. They were in a no-win situation themselves. They deserved a bit of grace.
A number of years ago, we went through a rough time when we thought my husband had cancer. Thankfully it turned out not to be, but for a few days it was pretty overwhelming. I remember driving home from the hospital on autopilot, in a fog. The guy behind me honked and I realized I was going half the speed limit. I remember grumbling to myself, Sorry, buddy. I just found out my husband could be dying, but hey, sorry to hold you up a few extra seconds… That made me realize that everyone has something they’re dealing with, and you just never know what inner struggles someone else may be having. The world would be so much nicer if we all extended each other a bit of grace.
Whether or not we extend grace to others, God freely offers His grace to all of us, and we truly don’t deserve that grace. Mercy is God not giving us what we deserve (such as punishment and damnation), while grace is God giving us what we don’t deserve. Again and again we are assured of God’s grace in the Bible. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24, italics mine). “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith…” (Ephesians 2:8, italics mine). Every single one of Paul’s epistles begins and/or ends with “Grace and peace to you…” We absolutely don’t deserve to be forgiven, yet God extends His grace to us out of His infinite love. He offers us more than a bit of grace. By His grace, He offers us heaven itself.
I don’t know what irritations you may face today. I don’t know if you’ll be held up by someone in the checkout line or the doctor’s office or on the road. But take a deep breath. You don’t know what they’re going through. And when you put it in perspective, most of those things that irritate us are incredibly shallow. Remind yourself that God has given you His priceless grace, so you can afford to extend to others a bit of grace as well.