When I’m a Jerk.

Sometimes I’m a jerk.

A self-centered, harried jerk.

Take tonight at the grocery store for example. Trying to multi-task in my “being relational” and “doing more for Jesus,” (yuck… Christianese makes me sick) I secretly want to yell at the lady with screaming, whiny kids in the cart next to me, interrupting my phone conversation, as I forget the fact that I, too, was once that whiny kid; just because I can’t recollect it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

Continuing with the multi-tasking, in an effort to bury my head in memorizing one more GRE vocab word, I almost knock someone over while turning down the next the aisle.

I catch a glimpse of James Dobson’s new book “Bringing up Girls” (which of course came out after “Bringing up Boys”) for sale on a random book rack. I glare, grit my teeth, and think mean things about Focus on the Family, wondering what repressive gender role messages they’re trying to spew this time.

I’ve been saying “shit” a lot.

Oh man, I just dropped my cell phone again.
Shit.

I can’t find my keys again.
Shit.

Why aren’t I more organized?
Shit.

Why am I constantly losing things?
Shit.

I’m late to work, late to my friend’s house, late to church.
Shit, shit, and… er, shoot.

Ouch. I can be such a jerk. I’m embarrassed and ashamed writing this that all of this exists within me, sharing space with the same body that wants to live out the “fruits of the spirit.”
The jerk comes out when I give into the lie that we should incessantly strive to “do more.” Doing more is the antithesis of the “come all who are weary” invitation Jesus offers. Doing more turns me selfish. It’s ok if I speed or for you to let me in your lane on the highway, after all, because I’m trying to “do more” to serve (which inadvertently assumes, more so than you, the person in the lane who I just cut in front of. Wow. Two points for jerkiness.). Life is too short. I have to pack in as much as I can, after all, because you or I could die tomorrow, right? So carpe diem, baby!

…Nonsense.

I am so thankful that there’s a recourse to this type of thinking. This type of thinking ridden in self-centeredness; that tries to be a conduit of God’s love, but ends up offering nothing but shallow banter. You know. One of those “hope you’re doing well!”s versus a sincere, “Hey, how are you doing? All of you? Even the parts inside that you don’t want anyone to see?”

I’m thankful that more often than not, God isn’t calling us to “do more.” He’s calling us to back to the “unforced rhythms of grace.” (Matt. 11:28 MSG). He’s calling us back to our first Love. He’s calling creation back to the Creator. He’s calling us back to the simple “love God, love others, and love others as you love yourself.” Serve your neighbor, serve the poor, and serve yourself an ice-cold water bottle to stay hydrated on your Sabbath walk out in the woods. Love your neighbor, love the poor, love your family, love the screaming kids in the grocery aisle, love the elderly person who is “slowing you down,” and remember to consider yourself lucky if you should life to that ripe old age one day. Then, you, as an Old Grandma, or Old Grandpa—remember to forgive the teenager who is glaring at you, wishing you would move faster,  as you remember when you used to do the same towards the elderly.

Confess cynicism. Own up to your own jerk-iness whenever it rears its ugly head. Ask about someone else’s day when you’re tempted to dwell on your own. Start over. Practice patience. Offer a compliment instead of a complaint. Greet your cashier by name. Get lost laughing in games of “peek-a-boo” in the grocery line with the kids who were just having a temper tantrum. Get lost in the stars, get lost in Jesus’ face in the eyes of those who are poor, get lost in God’s love as you feel an appropriate sense of smallness come over you, as awe and wonder take over, leaving the jerk far, far, behind. Do less when you feel the suction of the “do more” trap. Slow down when you’re moving too fast— long enough to count the number of birds you can see in sky right now. Breathe. Dig deep. Hop in the Conga line. Yes. Carpe that diem. 

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6 thoughts on “When I’m a Jerk.

  1. Thank you for your honesty Mel. I miss your refreshing and vibrant take on life being close to me. Thank you for helping clear the air to remind me that my jerkiness is sin and that’s not what God wants from any of us.
    Now, I’m off to apologize to some students that I made cry yesterday.

    • Even through the tears, I bet they still dig you, teach 🙂 Miss you and your zest for life (and the really sweet tattoo on your foot).

  2. Melissa, thank you for reminding me of the grace filled, unforced, rhythms of grace. Sometimes, they are very hard to remember (like when leaving the hospital at 7 on a Saturday night with an unwritten sermon). I pray I’ll be reminded to not beat myself up about being a jerk sometimes, but then also, just not be one. Thanks for writing.

    • Oy, Kathy, those sound like challenging Saturday nights but you sure seem ready to take on the challenge 🙂 I’ll be joining you in that prayer for myself as well- to not beat ourselves up or, in the same breath, keep contributing to our jerkiness. Thanks!

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