It’s the longest line I’ve ever seen...full of grumbling, mumbling, and complaints as we take baby-steps to the checkout. The lady in front of me turns to make sure I see her non-verbal display of disgust as she does that annoyed eye-roll thing to the tune of some rather loud huffing and puffing. She’d be great in an off Broadway production of the Three Little Pigs.
I shuffle along with the rest but can see I’m nowhere near the front. Maybe there’s some kind of reward for doing what I do best…endure in silence...which is pretty silly when I think about it. It’s not like I’ll get a Girl Scout badge for my gritty forbearance in aggravating situations.
As time seems to drag its big feet through buckets of mud, those of us determined to stay the course and bear up under the burden form a weird camaraderie based on our perceived communal suffering. We’ve been here too long to give up now, and from past experiences are positive that somehow there will be an end.
I have too much stuff, as usual, and the load starts to get too heavy for me. Do I ask for assistance or put something down? No…not this over-confident, poverty stricken, old person trying to make a dollar stretch without it ripping and flying around the place like an over-inflated rogue balloon with a sudden puncture.
Yes, I have a colorful, though sometimes out-of-control, imagination. As a word smith I’ve been known to bathe in rivers of hyperbole, swim in oceans of metaphors, and even occasionally march to the beat of iambic pentameter. It’s a real help to distract a tired mind in an endless queue.
It doesn’t occur to me to ask why there is only one line to accommodate so many. Some, with less patience than I, decide to forget the whole thing—more the pity. To make matters worse, they dump the things they’re carrying, anywhere that suits their misguided fancies, as they stomp off in anger. Some protest how this situation is unfair or ridiculous or not worth it. A few just give up and leave without a word. I’m staying.
My back is hurting and one arm is asleep so I shift the load and inch forward. Relief seems to be in sight when this snail progression comes to a faltering halt. There’s some kind of altercation at the front and security has to be called to escort an unhappy customer out the rear door. Hmm…wonder what’s back there? Maybe I don’t want to know.
When I think I can’t continue one more second, I pray for enough strength just to get this chore done and get on with life. At that very moment I hear a soothing voice. A man offers to help me.
“Here, let me take that for you. You must be exhausted after carrying it for so long.”
I find myself responding to his gentle kindness and hold my aching arms up as much as I can without screaming in pain. He meets me halfway and scoops up the whole mess.
Relief sends a thankful smile to my face. I’m so mesmerized by his sincerity and willingness to help that it’s my turn at the front before I know it. As I fumble in my wrinkled old change purse the checker stops me in my arthritic tracks.
“Honey, it’s already paid for.”
“What? Who paid for it?”
“The man who was standing beside you.”
“I’m sorry,” I begin, indignant for no reason that I can think of except it doesn’t seem like it could be true, “I will pay my OWN way.”
The ka-ching, ka-ching sound echoes for what seems like hours. Halfway through she looks at me as if I’m a few quarts low on good sense. She’s not shy about sharing her unsolicited opinion.
“Lady, there’s no way you can afford this.”
She gets louder and more upset with me.
“Besides, like I said before, it’s already paid for…why can’t you trust what I’m telling ya’ and just accept it?”
Why indeed? I know she’s 100% correct and there is no way on this earth I can ever pay for what I hauled through that life-line. It’s hard to wrap my finite mind around the undeserved, magnanimous offer. All I have to do is accept, huh?
She stands by, one hand still on the register, waiting for my decision. Finally, false pride aside, I take a deep breath and give my answer...
Romans 6:23 (NLT)
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
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