Friday, July 17, 2015

Cutting the line

I felt the looks before I saw them.

It was hot. I had been home all day with the girls and hadn't sat down once doing the usual picking up, switching laundry, tending dinner, making phone calls, refereeing sisters dance with which most moms are well accustomed. It wasn't a bad day, just a tiring one. 

Todd was away for a meeting, so I was flying solo that evening. The baby had the angriest diaper rash I'd ever seen (!!!) so I dragged all three girls to the dollar store in town on an emergency mission for extra-strength diaper cream. Forget my crunchy hippie-dippy remedies, this called for Desitin NOW.  

I put Harper in the car without pants or shoes and absolutely wailing. The other two had been playing outside in the unreasonable heat and were sweaty. Ava had actual marks on her face where the sweat had dripped down her cheeks and wiped away the dirt in tiny streaks. I had visible boob-sweat and realized too late that my homemade (hippie) deodorant may not have been designed for the kind of day I was having. We looked...rough. 

If I had been a bystander and seen us walk in--a literal hot mess--I might have stared. Ten years ago, when I was a teacher but not yet a mother, I know I would have judged. 

I immediately felt eyes on us. A teenage boy and his mother literally stopped dead in their tracks when we walked in. Another middle-aged woman I knew from town winked and just kept on walking. 

As I swiftly and efficiently (not) located the magic cream and pushed the tiny yellow cart to the checkout, a kindly older lady made eye contact with me and said, "You go ahead, dear. You look like you're in a hurry." I half died, but managed to choke out profuse thanks and scooted that cart and two flip-flop shuffling children to the front of the line. 

It dawned on me as I drove home, squirming from the back sweat now dripping down into my waistband, that it really didn't matter what anyone thought of me. I knew I was a good mom. I was secure in my ability to raise my tiny humans. My kids were loved. We were OK. Though we looked half-feral, we were just having a bad moment (entire day). I was proud of myself, because I finally extended myself the same grace I extend to others. I'm often the line cut-ee, but not the line cutter. 

I've been witnessing a lot of ugliness on social media lately. It seems many Christians feel like others are "cutting the line" and are being extended unfair advantages (or equality). I see Matthew 7:13-14 often quoted as a means for this positional jockeying: “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few."

These are Jesus' words as he explains how we enter the kingdom. It's not easy. There is hard work involved. It might even give some people anxiety to think that if the gate is narrow, maybe not everyone can enter. But the verse just before it is Matthew 7:12: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets."

Friends, we will not get to heaven faster by cutting in front of others, thinking that because we went to church more or for longer or gave more in the collection plate or were created straight instead of gay or identify as Methodist instead of Catholic we somehow deserve it more or sooner. We get to heaven by being secure in our relationship with God. And if we're not, we need to work on it. But we don't get to cut the line, nor does anyone else, because THERE IS NO LINE. The gate is wide enough for everyone. 

Not everyone is in the same place in their faith journey. I'd consider myself a bit down the road, but that doesn't make me any better than someone just starting out. It's in the journey that we find God. We will encounter others along the way. God is watching how we progress and how we treat our fellow travelers. But he's not keeping track of who's first.  

Know how we get to heaven? By helping someone get there before you. So, you go ahead, dear ones. I can wait. 

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