“Don’t be giving me any dented up cans!” said a very irritated lady to me while I was assisting her at the local food pantry. A minute later, “this bread is squished on one side.”
I pressed my teeth together and told her as politely as I could that all of this food was donated and if we turned down every dented can or squished bread, there would be no food to give.
So she rolled her eyes and threw it in the cart.
Later, when I had finished my volunteer shift and was driving home, I realized that I was really angry. How dare this woman complain about free food?! I started to think of all kinds of snippy comebacks if she were to come again. I said to myself, most people are so grateful, but gosh, some people! Clearly, she must not need the food if she is going to complain about it. She shouldn’t even be coming to the pantry!
So home I went, in a huff about ungrateful people. I knew I should pray for this lady, so that night, I opened my Bible and said a prayer that God would soften her heart. When I looked down, I realized that my Bible was open to Luke 6. I read it, and one verse struck me like a palm to the forehead.
“If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other one also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also.” Luke 6:29
As I read this verse, I was ashamed to admit that I had responded to the woman at the pantry in a very non-Jesus-like way. But this way doesn’t make any sense! I thought. This is enabling her to come in and mistreat the volunteers who are just trying to help! And that’s when I heard God say to me, ‘your ways are not my ways, Kristin. Your’s is the heart that needs softening.’
It was a few short months later, when the same lady arrived at the pantry again. Silently dreading the employ of Luke 6:29, I said a quick prayer and went to greet her. I put a huge smile on my face and called her by name. When she demanded non-dented cans, I searched through our supply and found some. When she rolled her eyes at the over-ripe produce, I did my best to find her some that looked better. When she treated me rudely, I smiled at her and said, “ok.” And when she was done, I touched her arm and said, “God bless you.” She looked at me for the briefest moment, smiled, and said, “you too.”
The more I walk in the ways of Jesus, the more I realize that he knows what he’s doing when he issues instructions for us. There are all kinds of reasons that I could justify treating her just as rudely (and the world would be ready to back me up with a high five) but God says not to trust those. God says all people deserve love, and if you can’t show them love, just show them a loving response.
The most beautiful thing of all is that I feel better, too. I actually look forward to seeing her now, because I get the chance to see if she’ll smile again. After all, who doesn't love a challenge?