“I can help you at this check-out,” offered the manager of a large retail store.
I set my purchase on the counter and asked if the item would be on sale any time soon. His mumbled response got lost in his shirt as he studied the cash register and worked at pushing the correct buttons.
All I caught was, “No, but…murmur, mumble, murmur…can give….15% …discount.”
“Oh, thank you,” I replied.
He busied himself entering codes and continued his muffled talk. I can’t exactly say how it happened but something he uttered under his breath registered, and I got what he meant.
Later I conveyed this story to a son over dinner and at this point in its re-telling I looked at him and declared, “He gave me the senior’s discount! And as I left the store I asked another worker about their policy. It’s 60! Not even 55!”
Without hesitation my clever son replied, “Oh, Mr. Bay, may you rest in peace.”
To be clear, I am 50.
The truth is I’m not that bent out of shape about the episode because I’m not particularly concerned about aging. My dramatic story telling was largely for entertainment value. But the idea of being flabbergasted by one man’s simple gesture of intended kindness does remind me of a principle God has been teaching me for years:
When a situation elicits a disproportionate emotional response, it’s worth taking time to step back and ask God to help me see what else is going on.
I call this having a meeting with myself.
I begin asking myself favorite go-to questions. What’s really going on here for me? What am I afraid of? Do I need a time out? In addition to bringing the intensity down a few notches, these questions help me sift through my feelings and identify core issues.
Sometimes the exercise is brief, as with the “senior moment”. After God and I discussed possible roots to my reaction I concluded that I am feeling better than I have in years. The shock of being thought 60 (or older!) directly conflicts with my internal “age” of 40 or younger. The discount offer clashes with how old I feel and more than anything took me by surprise.
And that is pretty much the end of that incident. Well, I did ask my husband if he thinks I look 60 and, wise man that he is, he replied, “No, of course not!”
But there are other times when clarity takes longer. Some situations trigger deeply imbedded beliefs, insecurities, longings or fears and require more meetings to sort through with God, a trusted friend, or counselor.
Perhaps the greatest learning for me is in asking God to use daily circumstances to refine my character and being willing to endure the internal discomfort situations stir. I credit a wise counselor who years ago instructed me to “just sit in the mess”. At the time I thought, “Am I paying for this advice?” but have since come to appreciate the value in letting God pull back layers of understanding over time.
Running from reactions rarely breeds growth. So, I will return to the retailer in question…just maybe not on the first Tuesday of the month.
With love and gratitude,
In The Midst