I see him walking and watch his lungs expand. He lets out a breath and my breakfast curdles within my stomach. Even his breathing bothers me. I try and shake the bitterness from my bones, asking Jesus to please, please help me, but I don’t finish the prayer. I am too ashamed.
We’re in the coffee shop together. He, on the customer side; me, behind the counter. He is standing in a long line of hungry, under caffeinated people, and it is early. The sun hasn’t poked her head through the clouds yet. If I could choose, I would run back home and crawl into my bed.
He looks at me. I try to avoid eye contact to no avail. He sees me. He holds out his mug, and for a brief naive moment, I think of it as some sort of truce or peace offering.
“Girl, give me more coffee.”
I blink. He must assume I haven’t heard him because he repeats himself. “Did you hear me, girl? Another coffee.”
He holds out his mug, and I watch my fingers reach out and take it. Perhaps I’ll accidentally spill some on his arm when I hand it back.
I’ve served him before in this coffee shop, many times. But this “girl” thing is new. A hundred choice words fly through my head as I pour the coffee into his cup. I realize my lips are pursed in a hard line, and I will them into something friendlier before I hand it back to him.
Love him. The thought comes from out of nowhere. It’s quickly replaced by another. Let’s go with a ‘no’ on that one. I couldn’t love him if I tried. I wonder if it makes me a hypocrite for preaching love without doing much loving.
“Have a nice day, sir,” I manage weakly as I hand the cup back. He doesn’t look at me, just takes the mug and goes back to the seat next to his computer, presumably where a million more important people wait in the depths of his screen.
I feel these speckles of bitterness jump within me. They simmer down, and I’m afraid they’re taking root. I think of the man and I think of my heart. Just love people, I tell myself. How is that so hard? Jesus did it. Shouldn’t that mean I can, too?
Days later, I sit in the car with my friend. (I’m convinced I have my best conversations in modes of transit: cars and planes mostly.) I tell her how terrible I am. I tell her how much bitterness and irritation I have inside of me. We talk about grace and I ask her, “Do you believe there’s grace for me?” She smiles and says easily, “Yes. I know there is.”
I think of Jesus telling people to love their enemies and to pray for those who persecute them. I don’t have any enemies, and I definitely don’t think a man calling me “girl” and telling me to refill his coffee cup falls under the category of persecution. But I mutter to Jesus, “Alright, fine, I’ll pray for him,” even though it goes against every stubborn human fiber in my stubborn human being.
I try it this week. The man comes into the store again, looking just as miserable as he did last time I saw him. When he sees me and tells me to fill his mug, I feel that same anger starting to cook inside of me. I give him his coffee and paste on a smile, but wonder if he can feel the irritation blistering within me.
Retreating to the washroom, I stare in the mirror. I say out loud, “Bless him, Jesus. Maybe he’s having a bad day. Or a bad few weeks. Or a bad life. Or maybe he’s not, and this is just who he is and he thinks it’s perfectly alright to call me Girl and demand things.” I realize I’m getting myself worked up again and take a long breath, lowering my voice. “But bless him, Jesus, and . . . please help me to love him.” I add the last part in quickly because I don’t really want to love him. I’m fine with staying annoyed at him for the rest of my life. But I want to love Jesus. And Jesus wants me to love the man. I don’t want my heart to be bitter anymore.
I pray for a lot more people these days. The man included. I don’t love everyone; not even close. Most days I don’t even realize the irritation I’m harboring inside. But I’m trying more than I was trying last week, and there’s grace for me in that.
Do you believe there’s grace for you? I’ll tell you what my friend told me: Yes. I know there is.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
I can relate to your illustration, but perhaps for different reasons. At 54, I find myself in “that stage” of life…where hormones are dissipating and my moods shift rapidly. One minute I feel like crying and the next I want to bite someone’s head off. It’s very hard to love irritating people when a battle of moods is going on in your body. But, like you said we need to treat each person (even the really annoying ones) as if they are Jesus. Some days I do well with this…other days not so much. I pray, like you, that there is grace for me too. Thanks for a message I needed to hear this morning 🙂
Deena Marie says
I’m with you there Bev. Thanks for sharing. Praying for us both today.
Madeline Osigian says
Yes, Aliza! I needed to hear this today! You’re on point, as always!
Changing our attitude toward others, loving them, is a choice, in my opinion. The choice is to reach out to God for His help. Because, apart from Him, we just cannot do it on our own. While there are certainly many times when I let annoying people bring out the worst in me, as a general rule, I feel like I give grace for many…for the offenses and mistakes of others. It’s much harder for me to allow that grace for myself, for the times I mess up. But I know it’s there. Thank you so much for sharing your heart. Great post! 🙂
Deena Marie says
I so…..identify. God grant me the grace to love on, if I can’t quit feel the lovin’ those difficult people in my life.
Oh my, this is so good. I am trying to listen and pull out those small ways I complain and grumble on the inside and replace them with prayers and thanksgiving. This helps, thank you.
Wow! Could this be more perfect? I think there are lots of believers feeling this way lately. Maybe it’s because our society has gotten so rude. So “it’s all about me.” I don’t know. I try to figure it out but I end up giving it to God. But, I’m right there with you, feeling like I’m called to love and pray for those who are so lost. They don’t have God. That’s the conclusion I’m coming to; they don’t have the peace and comfort I have in my relationship with God and it’s my grace and love that may, just may, help them see Jesus for the first time. It may seem difficult to us to pray for those grumpy, selfish, mean-spirited souls but I keep feeling like they’re the lost sheep God is searching for and I’m helping, even slightly, God try to reach those sheep. Let’s keep up the good fight!
ali grace | cookies and grace says
This is beautiful – and I definitely can relate. I even feel this way about a couple of my family members! I don’t want to even try to love them because I feel like they don’t deserve it. BUT that’s the point! I don’t deserve anything either. And Jesus gave his life for my undeserving soul!! Praise. Thanks for this poignant reminder. Grace and peace to you, Aliza!
Melissa Roman says
I also can relate to this I work at retail store an there are some of the regulars that I can tell when they are having a bad day. There are some customers that can be down right rude. I know the days when I have not spent enough time with the LORD to love those people. I try on my way to work to start asking Him to love those people through me because I know I can not do it.
I can so relate tot he illustration. To be honest, there are 2 people in my church who I am praying to love, cause I just don’t. How awful is that? Thank you so much for your honesty. It is refreshing and encouraging.
Marina Bromley says
I JUST had this conversation with a friend this morning… LOVE when God affirms His Word in us to Love… Thanks for the truth and grace…
Barbara Marshall says
I heard this years ago and it has helped when I encounter people that are hard to love: When we do not FEEL love for another and we show them love anyway, those are the times that we are really letting God love through us.
while it can be hard, possibly some might not know any better. We can only do our best and hope that it will make a difference.
If I do not show Grace to other’s how can I believe there is Grace for me?
Sorry correction ( give Grace).
Angie Wachendorf says
I love this post…I often have to struggle loving a family member who does not find anything positive to to say…It is a challenge. I love your realness and I appreciate knowing that other Christians have a struggle too.
Yes, exactly. A good word, Aliza. Bless you.
It’s crazy how relevant this is to me this very second, I am in college and I have been having an issue with my roommate ever since she moved into my dorm room unannounced a couple months ago, she leaves her huge fan and TV on 24/7 uses my stuff and my side of the room when I’m not there and she makes excuses when she gets stains on my side. She let me use her microwave though and I have a hard time speaking up for myself so I was never confident or completely direct when approaching her and I felt like she never got it. I ignored her and felt peace but then she introduced me to her friends and I felt like I made it obvious that I didn’t care to meet them and then I felt bad. Just now, she was sick and it annoyed me that her coughing woke me up and that she was being messy anyway I half heartedly told heller to text me if anything and she ends up asking me for a ride to the hospital but it’s finals week and I figured she must have friends to give her a ride so I said I couldn’t find any right now but ( if her friends couldn’t I would let my friend take her) I feel bad I didn’t take her with my friend immediately though. Honestly I wa annoyed at first. I told my ra to call her an ambulance so she’s gone now and my friend offered to give her a ride back later but I feel bad that i feel so annoyed by her whenever she talks to me.
Love shows up where you least expect it. Forty years ago I moved in to a two bedroom apartment with a friend. One of her friends moved in with us, a stranger to me. At first she made me crazy. I did not even like her. She had a big cat that would jump on me in the night and leave a mess in the bath tub. She was of a different faith. She was opinionated and kind of wild (I thought). I did ask the Lord to help me care about her. Now, 40 years later, she is the best friend in the world. We worship the Lord together at the same church. She leads a prayer group and I am in it. We pray for one another, share each others family joys and troubles, meet for breakfast, travel to conferences together. She is a great gift from the Lord. I love her with all my heart. His mysterious ways!
Beth Williams says
I have the same problem with some co workers. Jesus says to love them, but sometimes it’s hard really really hard. I do my best and pray for them! Like Bev, I have hormone issues also. One minute I’m fine and the next I’m super irritated and it may be over nothing.
Jesus did model this for us and we need to work hard to replicate His lifestyle. Fortunately there is grace for all of us when we fail in this endeavor!
Oh yes, I can so relate. Many times I call out for God to help me just love so-n-so, so-n-so, so-n-so…many of them so-n-so’s being family. I call “it” (my problem) my critical heart. Ugh how i hate “it.” Because I know fully well how, aside from Jesus’ atoning sacrifice causing God to see me thru His Son, I am…simply junk. He should be critical of ME, but instead loves me. So why do I have a problem loving so easily? Somehow I’m so critical of the people (mostly my elders, aunts, uncles, etc.) who are supposed to be good examples to us younger ones (right?). But they live otherwise and it appears they could care less what God thinks. I’ve thrown up prayers for them occasionally, written their names down and ripped up the paper in act of removing them from my “mind” prison & giving them to God, mantra’d “just love them, love them, love them.” And then when I see them, floods of critical thoughts return…I fight inwardly while even in their presence. Believing I must continue to pray, but more consistently for them…for their good, for His provision for them, their worries, etc. My heart will transform…I believe this. For I am called to love God and His people.
Elisa K. says
Yes, I know there is grace for me and everyone
who knows Jesus as Lord and Saviour^^*
I also deal with bitterness/unforgiveness.
Added to it is my Cyclothymia, my emotional disorder.
Also two other issues that add negative weight on my shoulders.
I keep on choosing to forgive as He has forgiven.
But it doesn’t mean I love perfectly.
Yet, again, I choose Agape Love.
One thing I am trying to come to terms with is the
reality that with some people. If they never change.
It means facing their ugly, yet still extending the
beautiful love of Jesus. From His heart, to mine,
I wish I could do it perfectly. But then, that’s why
Grace is there for. Because I cannot love perfectly.
And I need Jesus, for His grace to love, because
of His grace, only the love will shine for eternity.
Not the failings.
Thanks to His Gracious Love and Truth <3