I learned a very valuable lesson today. I learned it like I learn all my other lessons: the hard way. I stepped right in it then I tracked it all over the place.
I was out amongst the civilians today, feeling pretty cheery, actually. I had a little time to myself and I intended to make use of the Christmas spirit that was slowly starting to spring up. I was going Christmas shopping.
It wasn't long before my opportunity to perform my act of service presented itself. The first store that I went into I encountered a couple doing some of their Christmas shopping. This is what I overheard:
"So do I get her the Austrian Crystal platter or the fondue set? Todd? Are you even paying attention?"
"Whichever one you think..." Todd was bored.
"I want to know what YOU think. She's YOUR mother..."
I had stopped and was obviously listening to their exchange. The lady looked at me for a moment and then asked me what I thought.
I didn't have to stop and think. I KNEW the answer for I had done the work. I had toiled and labored. I had suffered through this situation for years. I had been enlightened over the last six days. I had seen the light. I mean I wasn't ready to handle rattlesnakes, but a few more days and I might be ready to bite the head off of a chicken or something...
I smiled. This is what Jesus must have felt like. I was poised and ready. I was going to perform the service of sharing what I had learned. "Neither." I said to her and smiled.
Her eyes narrowed and she cocked her head while turning it, making her resemble that Chuckie doll from those horror movies. "What?" her voice was a hissing quip.
"Give her neither. Don't give her a gift," I smiled smugly to myself, imagining all the woodland creatures that surely must scurrying out of their little burrows and holes to run to me for I was the gentlest of gentle creatures, the wisest of the wise. I was completely full of peace and knowledge. I was definitely full of something...
Todd bristled and looked at me like a mother tiger looks at the smallest of her young... the one that she must devour for the good of the litter: pity mixed with excitement. I was going down in a bloodbath and Todd had front row seats.
"Don't give her a gift?" The lady was looking at me through little slits in her face where her eyes once stared at me with disdain. "What do you mean don't give her a gift? I HAVE to give her a gift. For God's sake, she gave birth to my husband." Her voice had begun to get a little shrill and people were starting to watch.
"But that's the point, she is never going to like you. It doesn't matter what you give her," I had satisfactorily relayed the message that it had taken me years to learn, years full of tears and confusion.
It was at this point that noticed the men's clothing department on the other side of the store. I wasn't about to let them get away until I explained myself.
"A gift isn't about what you give, it's about why you give it," I explained... I could hear the brush of dove wings against my ear. "If you give her something because you HAVE to, then it's an obligation so you might as well not get her anything." Beautiful. I had sought a lesson, God had taught me a lesson and given me the means to share it with others. I was ecstatic. So ecstatic that I mistook the beating wings for doves when in fact they were fire spitting, acid puking pterodactyls of death and they were closing in. Todd was ready for the save...
"She likes you; I promise she likes you. She likes you a lot more than she used to," but Todd was too late. I had shared too much, spoken too soon, overheard the wrong conversation. I was a little scared. This woman had that "look" about her. You know, the kind of look that, without a word, let's the Girl Scouts know that SHE is the one who gets her Thin Mints before the other people on the block. That look that says "Sure I'll watch your kids but you are going to sign a waiver and a settlement agreement beforehand." If she was Bunny Foo Foo, there would have been acres and acres of head-bopped field mice. ACRES!
"Shut-up Todd!" she spat at him, dropping the platter into the cart. "And you, I don't know what you think you are, but your night school psychology classes aren't paying off," with that she pushed her cart the other way. I was left feeling confused and a little miffed at being so brutally rebuffed.
"I know you were just trying to help," Todd rushed past me after his wife. "Have a Merry Christmas."
I don't even have to reason it out now. I totally get it. I got it the minute she walked away from me. Everyone, every single one of us is on a journey. My path crossed hers just long enough for her to hate me. And her path crossed mine just long enough to realize that Mom was right when she said that I didn't have to "tell everything I know" and then some!
The best part about all it is that God is just the perfect God for that point in our journey. He goes from being Father to being Encourager to being Disciplinarian. He's exactly where we left Him, prepared to be whatever we need Him to be to get us where we can be good with Him. But today's attempt, and let's face it, EPIC fail at service showed me something else about myself. No, I already knew that I had a big mouth... No, I already know that I have a tendency to think I can fix everything. What I realized today is that both of those things probably contributed to my shooing away of my Christmas spirit, either intentionally or unintentionally. The anger at my inability to "fix" whatever was wrong with me may possibly be what is at the root of the problem that I am currently trying to fix. The difference is that this time I am willing to let Him be the fixer... at least I am now after what I am referring to as the Nasty Platter Fondue Clash of 2012...
Make tomorrow better than today... and pray for Todd!