I had planned a pizza party for my team in my room during lunch. Lunch starts at 12:06 but stupid Papa John's couldn't have my pizzas ready until noon and my school is 10 minutes away. So you see my problem. I had a very small margin of error.
I walked into the place a few minutes before 12 only to discover that Sherlock here had left her wallet in her classroom. I begged the worker to let me give her an IOU and come back to pay after school. She wasn't having it. My groveling was making her awkward so I gave her a disappointed look and a heavy sigh and said, "Fine. I'll be back." And I ran out the door.
I flew to the car and while in the parking lot, a four letter word beginning with "S" flew from my lips. I got in, slammed the door, and did what any normal, frustrated person would do. I screamed as loud as I possibly could.
Have you ever done this? It feels remarkable.
Then I threw the car in reverse, ready to practice my NASCAR skills, but right at that moment, an elderly fellow with a neon hat and motorized wheelchair decided to cross the parking lot right in front of me. This is when I yelled. I wasn't actually going to hit him with my car. But I was having a bit of a crazy moment.
Our lunches aren't very long and it was inevitable that I was going to be late but at this point, every minute counted. So I zoomed back to school going 80 down quiet, residential streets, slowing just slightly at stop signs, and made it back to school in record time. Right as I got in the parking lot, I made a terrible discovery: my wallet was the car. It was sitting next to me, peeking out of a different bag. I know. So I screamed, "Noooooooooo!!! No! No! No! Noooo!!!" and whipped the car back around racing back to Papa John's like a bat out of hell.
I let loose another 4-second, full-throttle scream, punched the steering wheel and myself and then turned on the classical station to try to calm down. It sorta worked but then I sang an original song with the lyrics, "I'm an idiot" in my best opera voice and was still saying, "Stupid, stupid, stupid" when I pulled back into the parking lot. I ran from the car, literally cut in line, retrieved the pizzas and then ran inside Vons for the ice cream I had promised the girls.
When I say "ran", I mean it. No jogging. No brisk walking. I ran. Of course I had worn my obnoxiously loud, clickity clack high heels that day so please picture a very frazzled girl with very frazzled hair and crazed eyes wearing heels and running through the market with three tubs of ice cream under her arms. To borrow phrases from Urban Dictionary, I was a "hot mess" and looked as if I had been SCRAGGLE PUNCHED. This is not in reference in Scrabble or Fraggle Rock, although I do love both. Scraggle punched is defined as:
A term used to denote a disheveled appearance that often accompanies a series of misfortunes such as to constitute a "bad day."
ie- "Whoa, what happened to you? You look like you just got scraggle punched!"
"Man, the boss really scraggle punched your ass at the meeting today."
Isn't this fabulous? We needed a phrase like "scraggle punched" because "Whoa, you're looking disheveled today" doesn't have nearly the same ring.
So I got in line at Vons and there was only one person in front of me just finishing up. Finally- a break. But oh no. Of course this lone woman decides to apply for a Vons card right then and there. I watched her slowly write her name and address and pinched myself as hard as I could so I wouldn't scream. Then I switched lines. You can guess what happened. Murphy's Law told me to stay but I was nearly drawing blood as I sunk my nails into my forearm so I had to switch lines before I caused a scene.
Just one man ahead of me buying three bottles of wine. Should take 60 seconds. Tops. But of course he busts out his check book and proceeds to slowly write a check. At the grocery store?!? Who does this? Perhaps people who forget their wallets. When the cashier finally rung me up, I grabbed my goods and yelled, "I don't need the receipt!" over my shoulder as I flew out the door.
It ended up being fine. I got back to school with plenty of time for pizza and ice cream. As I was driving at unsafe speeds back to school, something I read a long time ago came to mind: We are how we react.
I don't know if it was a book or a blog or a sermon so I can't give credit to this sage but remembering that nugget of truth was like swallowing a spoonful of conviction. Bitter, unsavory, unwanted conviction. We are how we react. Not how we act.
Because it's easy to act properly when everything is going my way. When people treat me kindly and see my point of view and circumstances line up favorably for me, it's easy to be peaceful and pleasant. When life's all sunshine and rainbows, I can be a pretty joyful person. But times like these don't reflect who I really am.
Who I really am is revealed when the storms roll in, when life's all clouds and rain and flat tires and frustration. Who I really am is seen in my reactions to struggles and catastrophes and forgotten wallets.
It's easy to be patient with my students on days when everything goes as planned. But when the copier breaks and the projector won't cooperate and I haven't had time for breakfast...that's another story. It's easy to be kind to them when the world is kind to me- when there are tasty treats provided at break and I've had plenty of sleep and no papers to grade and hit all green lights on the way to school. But that's not a typical day.
And if who I really am is who I am when I'm reacting to the minor bumps in the road, I'm realizing that I'm kind of a bear. A beast really. The type of person who swears and yells at old people and screams at the top of her lungs.
It's like I give myself a written excuse to be a psychopathic jerk when things don't go my way- like I can stop trying to be like Jesus when life sucks or someone is rude to me or things just don't go as planned. But that's precisely the time I NEED to be like Jesus. Anyone can be cheerful on good days, but it takes divine ability to be cheerful to stranger when inside you feel like screaming, swearing, and pinching yourself till you draw blood.
So I failed the test yesterday. I failed to tap into the power God has given me to live differently- to live with joy and peace and patience and kindness- even when I'm frustrated, ESPECIALLY when I'm frustrated. But though I was bummed and disappointed with myself and my craziness, I was able to laugh and smile by the time I showed up to the pizza party because Christ was whispering to me in my Jetta.
I know it was from Him, from His Spirit that I just happened to remember the line: we are how we react. In the midst of getting "scraggle punched", there was my Savior gently reminding me who I am, to whom I belong, and how I'm called to live- how I'm called to react. I didn't get it right this time. But the cool thing about Jesus is that He forgives my moments of insanity and then calls me to do better, shows me how to do better.
The very next day I read this in Proverbs: "Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult." (Proverbs 12:16)
Okay, I get it Jesus. I was being a fool by losing my cool over something so silly. Truthfully, I do this a lot. Some people wear their emotions on their sleeves; I wear my annoyance. I used to think I was pretty good at hiding it but the other day I was asked the same question 17 times and was ready to explode when a student asked, "Miss Hardeman, why are clenching your teeth?" Oh, you can see that? Crap.
Unfortunately, I got a clear picture of what a fool looks like when he shows his annoyance at once. A fool screams and shouts and cuts in line and drives like a maniac. And although it is inevitable that I will get annoyed in life, I'm told to hide this annoyance and be cognizant of the fact that how I initially react to unfavorable circumstances reveals who I am. If I do this, if I hide my annoyance and pause and think about my reactions, not only do I save myself from looking ridiculous, I calm down rather than getting even more worked up and annoyed. See, Jesus is helping me to not look so stupid.
The double wammie comes in the second part of the verse: "the prudent overlook an insult." Hey Solomon, are you sure you didn't mean, "the prudent get irrationally pissed at someone who insults them and then trash talks them to all their friends till they all agree that the insulter is an idiot who should go eat poo pie"? I think it reads better.
But no, we're called to OVERLOOK an insult. Now there's a command that flies in the face of everything society tells us is right and true, of everything our human nature tells us is right and true. There's a command that is frickin impossible to obey without the help of God. Because it is certainly not in my nature to overlook when someone insults me. No, no. I am defensive and vindictive and just plain mean when someone insults me. And I think that's actually pretty normal. But Jesus calls me to a higher standard.
He calls me to overlook insults and hide my annoyances and be aware of the fact that I show who I am in how I react. He calls me to do this and He then gives me the strength and ability to do so- to live in accordance with His Spirit, rather than by my sinful nature.
I love that. I love how Jesus loves me even when I'm being a total fool but then He shows me how to not be so foolish...even on the days when I get scraggled punched.