My house flooded three weeks ago. This week I took the first baby steps to put things back together again. On my way home from work, I stopped at a flooring store.
It was overwhelming.
I had trouble making sense of the differences between which samples were real wood, laminate, or vinyl, and which were backed with cork or rubber. My eyes were glazing over as shades of gray and brown all started to look the same. Finally, I selected two flooring samples, each the size of the palm of my hand, and got in line to pay 50 cents for each. Only two registers were open in this warehouse-sized venue, so lines were long.
When it came my turn, I stepped up to the register. A man stepped forward and said, “I am next.” I apologized and backed up to let him go.
He pulled up a large orange cart on wheels stacked high with flooring materials. The cashier asked, “Is that all?” He then pointed to a second fully stacked cart and said, “This one too.”
While I stood there with two dinky samples.
You know those times in the grocery store when someone with a loaded cart notices you only have two loaves of bread and lets you go first? That was the situation, only this guy either didn’t notice or didn’t care. Already frayed around the edges and still feeling overwhelmed, the wait wasn’t worth it, so I placed my two samples on the counter and said, “I need to go.”
Then I was rude.
As I was leaving, I turned to the man and said in an exasperated tone, “I only had two tiles.” The cashier overheard and jumped in to take care of me. She said to the man, “Let me take care of her real fast.”
Conviction hit, big time.
While the cashier was ringing up my $1.09 purchase, I turned to the man, “Sir, I am so sorry. I was so rude. Please forgive me.” He waved me off and said, “It’s okay.” I persisted, “No sir, it’s not okay. I was wrong. Please forgive me.”
I paid for my tiles and walked to the car while talking to God (loudly) from behind my mask. “Lord, I can’t remember doing anything like that in my entire life! I am so sorry! Please forgive me. I am mortified.”
I had another stop to make on the way home while I processed what happened. As I pulled into the post office I told God, “I didn’t love him. I didn’t lay down my life for that man. I treated him like I was more important than him. May I never do that again!”
Why did that happen?
That evening I talked about what happened with a friend. Doing so helped me put a finger on why I acted like that. (It wasn’t just my words, it was my heart and voice. I was mad at him.)
Turns out, I hadn’t prayed well for several days. Fall bible study at the church had started and getting the homework done before work each day has been cutting into my prayer time. In addition, working out the flood situation in my home has taken time. Sure, God has been getting my prayer lists and recitations, but He hasn’t getting my heart. I hadn’t slowed down enough in several days to give God my emotions while handing him situations and people.
And things had built up.
As I teach in my courses, and as research reveals, stuffing our emotions leads to “venting” and “kitchen-sinking.” The latter is a real term that means you throw “everything but the kitchen sink” at someone. I didn’t vent, but I had certainly sprung a leak. I had blurted a rude sentence to a man in line and treated him as less important than me.
A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back. Proverbs 29:11
For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:20
What to do with emotions.
It is important that God gets our emotions, not just the facts. In fact, I think it’s a good life principle that God gets our emotions first, not people. If we don’t express our feelings to Him first, they end up splattering indiscriminately onto people around us.
No one deserves that.
Picture Explanation: The annual father and son fall camping trip turned into glamping this year. What a trip they had.
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