Today I made such a rookie mistake.
It was as if I thought I had no children, and had never gone shopping before.
At 430 this afternoon, I "popped into the grocery store" to "pick up a few things" before getting Patrick from work at 5.
Ten days before Christmas with a cart full of kids.
It was a madhouse. It actually took us 20 minutes to weave our way around the carts and displays to grab the four essentials on our list (and a few things we bumped into and couldn't pass up).
Then the lineups to pay were enormous.
And Sam was beyond tired.
And after finally wrestling everything back into the cart, we were walking out at 5:05 (I'm sorry darling!) straight into a maelstrom of rushing and bad manners.
The woman in front of us drove her cart into the back of an old lady who was walking with a walker. She rolled her eyes as the old lady's husband stopped to help her, blocking the exit.
I was appalled, and wanted to stop to help, when I noticed Sam shrieking "Mama mama mama I want money!" He loves to donate to the Salvation Army Christmas kettle, but this time, as I explained to him, I didn't have any cash.
Instead of walking past and saying Merry Christmas, Sam ran up to the kettle staffer and put up his hand like a stop sign. "We don't have any money," he yelled, shaking his head, "Mama has no money left!"
I managed to get Sam out of the baffled volunteer's face and out of the store while someone else tended to the older couple ... and I had to bite my tongue as we went by cart-bully lady.
I was frazzled, angry, embarrassed, and late.
I packed the groceries and kids into the truck with more speed than grace, and proceeded to rant at every careless driver from intercity to the south end.
And God knocked on my heart and reminded me that it's Christmas.
Oh yes, I agreed, and you'd think that people would spread a little kindness and good cheer! You'd think they'd show some grace and patience at this time of year especially!
Yes, he agreed, especially those who love the manger, with its gift of outrageous mercy, of unfathomable grace.
You'd think I would.
I'd been the clangiest of cymbals. The emptiest rage. My heart was jostled and ugliness spilled out. Self-righteousness, self-preservation, and selfishness were pumping out full-blast.
The manger matters. The selflessness, the extraordinary lengths to which Love went for me needs to affect my response in a late - afternoon mob. The fact that I am loved all the way from heaven to earth needs to set my feet in a quiet place of gratitude, so that when I see cruelty or thoughtlessness I can choose to give the benefit of the doubt. God's infinite care for us must remind me that I am free to care for others, to be considerate, gentle, even when I'm cut off or trapped behind slowness. It must matter in the ugliness of rush hour if it matters at all.
Especially at Christmas.
Especially to those who love the God who came into this world as a helpless baby.
Especially to road-ragey late mamas like me.
Especially at Christmas.
I'm glad it's not over yet. :)
Merry Christmas, friends.