The other day I was at Target (on a kid free errand, yahoo!) and I noticed something that struck me as odd. Now let me first admit that I too have been guilty of this before, so I do not stand in judgment of others, but am merely observing an irony. You see, it was pouring down rain -an ugly day. So you can imagine it, right? People are rushing in and out of the store as quickly as possible. They are grabbing carts and trying not to get soaked as they hurry out of the rain and into Target. After shopping there is the dreaded return to the car in the rain. So, I leave the store, open my tailgate, unload the bags from my cart, and proceed to return it to the proper place when I notice this (see picture to left). Now I would be lying if I said I did not think about simply rolling my empty cart into this already existing group of carts. But I stopped for a minute and thought, hmmm, this is interesting . . . 3 handicapped spaces are being used by 5 empty carts. You can envision the busy buyers in a hustle and bustle to get out of the rain and into their cars, therefore failing to take the time to return the carts to their proper place but instead rolling them to the gigantic empty space right next to their vehicles. And we all know that once ONE person did it, it somehow gave permission for the other 4 to join in . . . guilt-free.
But upon taking a closer look, I opted out of following the crowd and went with option #2, that got me a little wetter. So I pushed my cart 50 feet further to the return area. As I walked back to my car I chuckled out loud at this situation. Why? Because I thought how much this little cart scenario reflected the way we are tempted to deal with stress in life. You see, as it was pouring and people were getting wet, and in a rush as well, they simply chose to push the Target cart to the closest open space, in a panic almost. They were trying to unpack their cart, get it out of the way, and then get into the car all while staying as dry as possible. Yet, in pushing the cart to this open space they now participated in removing 3 handicapped spaces from the parking lot. So while in a panic to solve their own problem, they caused a bigger problem for handicapped drivers searching for a spot close to the door on a rainy day. Do you see what I am getting at here? Under stress and pressure,in a rush, how often do we attempt to solve our own problem all while creating a bigger one for someone else?
Let us refer to this as “a hot mess”. Meaning that we take a mess and make an even bigger mess out of it. A hot mess simply describes anything that is a disaster, whether it is a big one that needs to be taken seriously or Adeline’s blue tongue after eating a blueberry lollipop. It points to the fact that things have gotten out of control, or that they are messy and in need of fixing. This is exactly what I thought, and probably said out loud, when I looked at this pile of wet carts filling up handicap parking spots. Here is a true reflection of our mere humanity: in a hurry under stress I do what is easiest for me and not necessarily what is best for others. Ouch! It hurts to think that this might be true, but let’s face it at one time or another (figuratively speaking) we have all placed the cart in the handicap space out of rush and in a panic. Haven’t we?
I know too often my gut response to stress in life is to overreact or to attempt to solve it in a quick and easy manner – to make it disappear. Unfortunately this often results in me thinking about ME, and forgetting that others matter too – maybe even more than I do. At least they should according to Scripture. Isaiah 58:10 states very clearly how we are to serve others,
“and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.”
The challenge laid out here is simple: “Do I spend myself for others?” Do I think more about those around me than I do about myself? How do I respond to stress and panic? Do I stop to think about how my reaction impacts others or do I aim to quickly solve my own problem without regard for the ripple effect. Now understand one thing: I am NOT saying that pushing a cart into a handicap parking spot is the worst thing in the world. All I am saying is that after reflection I began to see how it could serve to illustrate our reaction to bigger problems in life. That it stood to represent our broken humanity in the sense that we struggle with this idea presented by Isiah, to spend ourselves for others . . . especially when it is inconvenient. Even more so when we are under pressure, stress, or in a rush. When our situation places us in discomfort and we have to make a quick choice, is it possible that too often we choose what is easiest for us and not necessarily best for the rest?
Spending myself for others is something I do when it is easy or convenient, but is it something I do when it is difficult or uncomfortable . . . when because of it I get wet in the pouring down rain? I find myself searching for that moment of quiet I desperately need each day (this doesn’t come easy with a 1-month old and a 3-year old) . . . and in the search I often rush through the day multitasking during the 2-3 hours of free time I have while Maisie is sleeping, you know before she wakes to be changed and fed again. I feel like I am living in the panic, rushed mode of the Target parking lot everyday. Okay quick, Maisie is down for the count and Adeline is at school for 2 more hours. Ready! Set? Go! Laundry, dishes, blog, devotion, shower, dry my hair get dressed, fold the clothes, put them away, check my email, make a phone call, wash the bottles, eat . . . all before she wakes up and cries.
So what I am saying is this: I GET IT. And . . . I am guilty of it. Of thinking of myself before others. Of forgetting to spend myself for others. Of reacting out of panic instead of breathing and thinking before I make a choice. Of making a hot mess out of a situation because I forgot to stop and acknowledge that it really is not the end of the world . . . that being in the rain for 20 more seconds will not drastically change my life for the worse, but it may actually impact the life of another in a positive way. Lately when I get overwhelmed with nighttime feedings, dinner/bath/bed time routines, going back to work in less than a month, life with 2 children, I find it is helpful to stop and remind myself that I am not spending myself for ME, but that I am spending myself for others . . . 2 very specific little others most days. So whether it is the parking lot at Target on a rainy day or the end of a long day at home with two little girls, the bottom line is the same. Am I spending myself for others? Does my reaction reflect panic and rush or kindness and love? Am I making a hot mess of things or letting my light rise in the darkness, as the night becomes like the noonday?