More Than Humanity’s Reflection?
y toes were rudely trampled upon at the entrance of the grocery store last week. I was picking up a shopping basket when a suit-clad individual, talking loudly into a Bluetooth, rushed into the store. Turning instinctively, I narrowly missed being elbowed in my pregnant belly as he hurried in. Throwing me a perturbed look as if to say “Why are you in my way?” he continued into the store. He snatched up a bag of romaine lettuce and prepackaged tomatoes, and stormed over to the checkout as I picked up the first item on my short list.
This wasn’t the first time in recent months that I encountered someone who was less than gracious. In fact, graciousness and kindness seem to be an increasingly rare commodity. Not only had my toes been stomped on, but I recently had been eyed askance for wishing a bank teller a nice day before moving on; I was beeped at for letting one car move in front of me from an expressway on-ramp; I was glared at while holding the door at a restaurant for a family about the size of a football team (it was members of the family that glared at me!). Aren’t people at least nicer to pregnant women? I groused. I’m usually in a hurry, too, but this is ridiculous!
I thought back to how things had been three years before, when I was pregnant with my first child. The last few months of that pregnancy had been filled with lots of smiles and well-wishes from men and women alike. No matter where I went, people seemed to have time to chat about babies and children, and on several occasions caring souls insisted I take their seats while we were waiting someplace together.
I mentioned this perceived trend toward things less civil to my mom. She and I agreed that it wasn’t unique to my pregnancy. She had encountered much of the same and told me of other conversations she’d had on the topic. In two or three years an already rude, harried society had taken a steep downward spiral. And not only was it happening in the day-to-day, it was happening at church. It was happening to me.
The way the behavior manifests itself is in hurried busyness. On Sabbath morning we hurry to park and get into our seats. Then we hurry to fellowship dinner, choir practice, vespers—barely taking the time to ask and really listen to how others are doing. “Getting things done” is replacing “service with a smile”—rushing is making people downright cranky. We are becoming more concerned with checklists than with checking in.
I understand that the world is coiling down as earthly time winds to a close. But need we be reflections of stressed-out humanity? If we, as Christ’s emissaries, can’t slow down on Sabbath, if we can’t show society a gentler way to live, we are in big trouble.
—Catherine Lester, Laurel, Maryland
To Feel the Love of the Saints
Just now, the temperature outside is 42 degrees. That might not sound too cold, but I’m from Florida. Need I say more? Earlier this evening when it was warmer (mid-40s) I went shopping for some groceries. As I shopped I heard the words “The blood within my veins boils, even on a night so cold as this, for I do not feel the love of the saints as I once did.” What did that mean? Who was saying this over and over again?
I found the speaker walking one of the aisles. He promptly stopped speaking as other shoppers passed him by.
I’d say that he was around my age—20 years old. He had short brown hair, and he wore a jacket (probably another of “those Floridians”). But what did he mean by what he said? I didn’t ask him, so I’ll never know for sure, but here is what he said means to me.
“The blood within my veins boils. . . .” When I think of boiling blood I think of tension; I think of a teapot about to burst its steam. My peer was under some kind of tension; he was in some kind of distress.
“Even on a night so cold as this.” As I said, it was cold out tonight, and for something to boil under these conditions it would take a lot of heat. My peer was in some kind of distress brought on by exceptional circumstances.
“. . . For I do not feel the love of the saints as I once did.” To me, these were the most striking words. My peer was in some kind of distress brought on by exceptional circumstances, and now I was finding out why: “For I do not feel the love of the saints as I once did.” He did not feel loved as he once did.
I doubt that the atmosphere gave rise to my peer’s thoughts, for, at least for me, rows of cereal boxes, ketchup, and ice cream have never provided me impetus enough for profound thought. I imagine that my peer had been under such distress for some time, and that he had recited these words before. He appeared disheveled and unkempt, sad and distraught, pained and hopeless.
I walked down the grocery aisle and passed him, and he glanced at me briefly as I passed. His eyes held large tears, and he quickly turned back to stare at the cartons of ice cream as he had been doing for the past several minutes. I passed by without a word.
Was I as cold as the temperature outside? Was I as cold as that ice cream? Was I one of the “saints” from whom he did “not feel the love” as he once did? I consider myself to be a Bible-believing Christian, but have I “believed” the Bible—have I believed in Christ’s Christianity—without “becoming” a Christian? And so I thought, and now I write, for I’d guess that this is a problem facing many young Christians today.
I have believed, yes, and many other young Christians believe, but what have we—what have I—become as a result of this belief? Have I been transformed by the renewing of my mind in Christ Jesus (Rom. 12:2), or have I simply “believed” in Christianity without “becoming” a Christian? Have I left my peers out in the cold?
I will strive to become more like Christ, for I wish others to “feel the love of the saints,” and I hope that you, too, will desire to become and not just believe (see James 2:26).
—Joel Hughes, Collegedale, Tennessee