Thursday, February 27, 2014

When I Assaulted a Complete Stranger...

I assaulted a complete stranger in the middle of Cracker Barrel.  Mike and Taylor took me to breakfast for my birthday. There’s not much better than Cracker Barrel’s hash brown casserole, so the decision on where to go was easy.  But then it happened. 

Now our daughter, Taylor is a beautiful blend of her parents.  I raised her to be a feisty and full of life, and her dad taught her to be caring and compassionate.  She’s taken every trait we’ve tried to model throughout her life and perfected it in her own, lovely way. Being with Taylor brings out the silliness in me.  She stirs up my need for competition and humor. What I’m about to share was not her fault. 

I started it.  Yes, me, the MOM in the group.  I initiated a game of napkin soccer on the table in the restaurant, and Taylor was all too happy to participate.  Of course she scored more soccer-napkin goals than me.  I needed an amazing soccer kick to avoid losing the game, so I stopped for concentration, aimed carefully at her forehead and flicked the napkin as high as my middle flicking finger would send it.

In all the napkin soccer games that our family has ever played, my high kicks have never flown higher than the shoulders of my kids.  I truly can’t think of a single time.  Until yesterday.  On my forty sss…omething-ith birthday, my middle finger performed the most perfect napkin soccer kick of my life.  The napkin flew, and flew, and flew. My daughter was proud and began to raise her hands in celebration of my accomplishment.  But then, she saw the expression of shock and humiliation on my face.

The napkin flew up and over Taylor’s head and landed, perfectly centered, in the middle of a table where a young man and woman were trying to enjoy their breakfast.  Of course it wasn’t a clean napkin.  It was a dirty, crumpled napkin that invaded their privacy  in the most intrusive, obnoxious way.  The man’s voice was loud and stern as he simply said, “Wow.”   His back was to me and he couldn’t see who launched the missile.

What shocked me most was my own longing to hide.  I had no desire – none – to fess up to what I’d done.  Maybe I could help the man think that someone else had done this terrible deed.  As he slowly turned around it was clear that there was no way to conceal my actions. The way our tables were positioned, my location, and my beet-red face still buried in my hands were all that he could see.  Our eyes met.  He knew who-dun-it, and I was speechless.

It was my husband who spoke first.  “Sir, we are so sorry.” And then the man began to laugh.  He said he expected to see a young kid, but instead saw a mom.  Praise the Lord that the man was a great sport and found humor in the situation. 

It was funny, indeed, but the Lord had zeroed into my heart with a giant magnifying glass and revealed my initial reaction to hide from what I’d done. Like the blame game that took place in the Garden of Eden I wanted to find someone toward whom I could point my finger and say, “She did it, not me!” The Holy Spirit deeply convicted me of my attitude and willingness to let someone else take the blame. My desire was to protect myself from prosecution, but I couldn’t find a way to wiggle away from the truth. I had no choice but to stand in the light, even when I desperately wanted to hide from it.

Sometimes when life moves at its fastest pace and we react in the moment instead of considering what is most pleasing to God, we get busted.  When all was said and done, I was given a few more chances to do the right thing.  I confessed, I apologized and then I hunted down the couple’s waitress and paid for their breakfast. I declared this a “life-changing experience” and Mike was visibly excited, believing that napkin soccer was over forever. His excitement was short-lived when Taylor and I vowed to take up the sport again, but to save it for home.  No, the lesson for me was not about soccer, but about a fleshly, natural reaction to cover the truth had it been possible to do so. 

The Lord gave me a gentle, but firm reminder on my birthday that His ways do not come naturally to our flesh.  For me, it was one more tough lesson on how much I need His strength to walk in any measure of self-control.  My desire is to do the right things, but when my flesh is allowed to react before I can consider my options, there’s an obvious tendency to choose what is not right at all. It’s nothing short of a spiritual battle through temptation, even when the stakes aren’t high and when everyone involved can laugh about what’s happened. 

I received a fresh reminder that I’ve a long way to grow.  I’m thankful for the Lord’s grace and encouragement along the way.  I’m grateful that He never gives up on us and loves His children at all times and through all trials.  My heart overflows with thanks as I consider this stern but gentle reminder. For whom the Lord loves He reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights (Proverbs 3:12 NASB).  I know that the Lord wants His best for me, and together, we’ll keep moving toward it.

This morning, His mercies were new once again and I received a fresh start in walking by His strength.  May you find his new mercies as well, as we learn from yesterday’s mistakes and pursue today’s blessing.

Be Strengthened today, by His Word,

Psalm 119:28

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