About a month ago on a Sunday, we decided to go to McDonalds for some sustenance, if you can call it that, after church. Ordinarily I use our debit card; Iíve gotten out of the habit of carrying that all too convenient cash. And of course, these days it is never a problem. There are no more merchants, however remote, that are cash only. That being the case, when someone tells you that they cannot accept debit cards for payment due to a faulty card scanner, it usually takes one by surprise. As quick as I am, I was no exception on this particular Sunday. After the drive thru operator told me that ďThe machine brokeĒ I responded with the less than intelligent remark: ďOh. So you canít take them at all?Ē Yes, it was a stupid question. If that machine is broken, he could not use it. At that moment in time all was well with the world. It was mildly frustrating because I was going to have to come up with an alternate plan, which is not my favorite thing to do, but I was handling this imposition pretty well considering. But then it happened. His response brought my peaceful and content attitude crashing down around me. He responded to my despondent question by saying ďThatís what the machine broke mean.Ē
Despite having spent the last 2 hours absorbed in worship, prayer and learning about the things of God, and even more ironically, forgiveness, I snapped on the poor high school drop out. I responded to him as follows: ď#$@% you! I donít need the smart @#$# attitude #@#$$^&&$#% !@#% #$% ^& # !Ē Feeling only slightly better, I pressed down rather hard on the gas pedal of my 3000 pound tough guy mini-van and proceeded to the drive thru window with the full intention of accosting my disrespectful friend, and continuing to spew my expletives at him, and perhaps his manager as well. Unfortunately, there was another vehicle parked at the window waiting, unassumingly, for his order. Apparently he had cash. I made the decision to move on, mostly due to the fact that my wife was less than happy with my behavior, and also because my 3 year old son had apparently gotten upset with the man as well, and decided that he should perhaps use some of the same words that I had to express his discontent. Realizing that this exchange between he and I could take some time, and understanding that we were all tired and hungry, I moved on. I will mention here that the fact that the man standing in the drive thru window wearing the head set, was a very large, very muscular and very mean looking black man had nothing to do with my decision not to confront him. I only mention that to eliminate any possible confusion about my masculinity.
I am willing to bet that the very large, very muscular, black man did not think of me or our exchange again. But I did. Oh yes I did. In fact, I thought of nothing else for nearly 30 minutes. Through the course of finding a Jackís restaurant nearby, who had a working credit card machine and were very friendly by the way, and ordering our food, I continued to steam. I considered my options. I could call the store and speak to his manager. I could call the national complaint hot line. I could write a letter to the owner of the franchise. I could file a complaint to the BBB. Oh yes, I would make him sorry. He would rue the day he came into contact with a behemoth like me! Rue it! I would make sure that he would lose his 7 dollar and hour, graveyard shift, miserable existence of a job, thereby forcing him to go down the street a block or two and get another 7 dollar an hour, graveyard shift, miserable existence of a job! I would ruin his life! At least for a few hours.
A little while later, while driving down the freeway, my anger started to ease a little bit, at least to the point that I was capable of briefly thinking about something else. Beth and I started talking about the service and what we had learned. As I mentioned, the entire message was about forgiveness and finally, after nearly 30 minutes of extreme rage, or perhaps 33+ years of existence, it occurred to me that Iím a complete moron. I realized that I didnít know the first thing about the very large, very muscular black man. What would drive a very large, very muscular black man to work the graveyard shift at a McDonalds? It is certainly not unreasonable to think that a very large, very muscular black man could have been laid off from a much better job in this economy. Maybe the graveyard shift at McDonalds was the first, or only, source of income he could find to support his very large, very muscular family. Maybe not. Maybe he was lazy and just doing the absolute minimum necessary to support his drug habit. How would I know? Maybe it was his second or third job. Maybe he had been working for 20 hours straight to support his very large, very muscular, and sick mother and was completely exhausted. Maybe I was the 401st person to ask the same stupid question, and he just couldnít take it anymore. If I were in his shoes, I would turn into the very same #@$@#$^ that I had called him.
The point is that I had let this exchange sour my previously good mood. I was consumed with a negative emotion for 30 minutes that I will never get back because someone I didnít know was disrespectful to me. Weíve all been there, but what happens if we raise the stakes a little? What if someone you know, or someone you are close to hurts you? Once I realized what I was doing, it was pretty easy to let the very large, very muscular black man off the hook, but itís not so easy when itís someone you are close to.
Iíve been mired down in anger for an extended period of time before. I have been unwilling, or unable to forgive someone I was supposed to be close to. Iím not sure there are some magic words that will allow you to let things go just that easily. I am certain, however, that it is a whole lot more difficult if you are not in a close walk with the Lord. If you have accepted Godís forgiveness for yourself, knowing what you have done in your lifetime, it because much easier to forgive someone else for being human. You may not understand how someone else thinks, or what would make them do something hurtful to you, but it shouldnít be so hard to see how it can happen to anyone. Just look in the mirror. None of us are blameless. There are people out there that you have hurt, and they have spent time wondering what would make you do it to them, and they are having just as much trouble understanding it as you are. We are all so individualistic, so different from head to toe, that it is impossible for each of us to understand everyone.
I have just recently understood the drawbacks of being so angry with someone that you should be close to that you take 1 or more steps back from that relationship. We all have, or will have at some point, something to offer. There may be periods in our lives where whatever positive things we have to offer others gets buried under circumstances and difficulty, but eventually we usually move past it. Sure, there are exceptions. There are people that never learn, that never grasp the importance of treating people well; but those people will end up alone anyway. If you harbor resentment toward them, despite it being impossible to have a relationship with them, who are you hurting? Youíre not hurting them. They are doing that to themselves. But maybe one day, they will have a moment of clarity and realize what they have done to themselves, and if you have not forgiven them then you wonít be there for them when they come out of their funk. The only reason itís important to forgive them, and to be there for them when, or if, they come out of it is that one day you might be the one in a funk. You might need a little bit of patience.
Besides, he was a very large, very muscular man.