I first noticed the green leaves ruffling on the oak trees in the back yard on Friday afternoon, when I looked out the kitchen window of our Marietta, Georgia, home. My husband, Rick, entered wearing a pair of jeans and a green checked shirt. He picked up the binoculars he kept behind a plant sitting on the pine stand and gazed at the bird feeder. “Not much business out there. It looks like we’re going to get some rain.”
“I hope so,” I said.
All day long the branches swayed, but the air stayed dry. By that night the first of fall’s dead brown foliage lay on our deck, but not one drop of water. Saturday morning the blustery weather teased us again, seemed to promise a shower that never came. Disappointed, I told Rick, “There’s a storm outside with no substance.”
Then it occurred to me. When I’m not true to my religious beliefs, I am a Christian with no core just like a tempest without rainfall. I attend church on Sundays, but do I have a strong foundation that stays with me when I walk out the doors? For someone such as myself, who was raised as a Christian, it isn’t difficult to go to church, participate in a Sunday School class, and volunteer for projects. But, is my faith part of my life or do I live orchestrated Christianity? Do I respond to strangers as well as people I know with kindness? What do I say to the waiter who gets my order wrong in a restaurant? What about the clerk who rings up an incorrect amount on my check? What about the person who is in line in front of me at the grocery, who buys a loaf of bread, writes a check, can’t come up with sufficient identification, and insists on seeing the manager?
That happened one day, when I was in a hurry. I ran in the store to pick up noodles, Italian bread, and Coca-Cola to find large numbers of people jammed in the isles. Then the sign atop check-out number twelve lit up. Making a dash for it, I arrived just after a thin lady with long disheveled black hair, who wore a pair of jeans and a dingy white shirt. She laid a loaf of bread on the counter and whipped out her check book. Surely she wasn’t going to write a check for one item.
Before I knew it the cashier in the green jacket was asking, “Ma’am, could I see your driver’s license, please?”
I couldn’t believe it. The lady fished a white card instead of a driver’s license out of her small black purse. The clerk said, “I’m sorry, but this isn’t enough.”
“I want to see the manager.”
My heart sank. How long would this take? Finally after what seemed like an hour, but probably was only fifteen minutes, the manager arrived, okayed the sale, and the woman left. “I’m sorry,” the cashier said as she rang up my items.
“It’s all right.” I forced a smile, but I only can imagine what my effort looked like to her.
In retrospect I wondered what God expected out of me in that situation. Perhaps, I should have learned how to be more patient. Maybe I would have if I’d thought how insignificant an extra fifteen minutes in my day is when there are people fighting for their lives in hospitals, suffering abuse, or starving. Maybe the woman in front of me had needed me to buy her a loaf of bread. Also, it’s possible the cashier had had a hectic afternoon and would have appreciated a kind word. I wasn’t rude, which I suppose qualified me as a gentle wind, but I was a tempest without rainfall, thinking only of myself. However, I’m going to try to have more substance like a friend of mine who ended up behind a white-haired couple buying lunch in McDonald’s one day.
Busy at work, he had decided to grab a quick bite. When he got to the fast food restaurant, a gentleman with slumped shoulders in front of him counted his money in his wrinkled, thin-skinned hand. He looked at his wife and said, “You get the French fries.”
She gazed back at him with tired blue eyes. “No, you can have them.”
My friend put five dollars on the counter in front of them and asked, “Why don’t you both get French fries?”
Galatians 5: 22, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”