You are Not My Competition Wednesday, September 25th, 2013
It was 5:15, and I was finally making it to the grocery store. I just needed to grab a few things, and since I had no clue what I was going to make for dinner… a frozen pizza was added to my list. There is only one grocery store in our small town, and I anticipated that everyone getting off work would also be grabbing last minute dinner items as well.
Furthermore, I was breaking the code.
Rarely do you see another stay at home momma at the grocery store at 5:15. Do you know why? If you learn anything as a stay at home momma, it is to get grocery shopping done early when the children are at their best. Should you somehow not make it to the grocery store by late afternoon, you should probably just order take out… because the trip is NOT worth it!
I knew what I was up against.
My prayer on the way in… “Just let this go quickly, Lord. Frozen Pizza. Milk. Bread. Trashbags. Bleach. No fits… no drawing attention to ourselves… just in and out.”
Can you hear Jesus laughing?
Every single person walking in enters in front of everyone checking out. The store is set up for some great entertainment really. On this day, the check-out lines were packed. All eyes were on us as we spilled through the doors – my kids already screaming about who got to sit where in the cart.
Yes. Two very loud toddlers and their momma (decked out with a dysfunctional pony tail and t-shirt accessorized with crusted blueberry oatmeal) were met by slacks, business skirts and dozens of disapproving eyes.
I smiled a, “Hey, I have kids, and I have survived until 5:15, and my husband is almost home, and I still don’t have dinner started,” smile and continued my mission. “Frozen Pizza. Milk. Bread. Trashbags. Bleach. No fits.”
I should take this time to mention that I am pretty sure there is an understood grocery cart speed limit. This falls under the non-spoken rules of appropriate social behavior. You can wander. You can stroll. You can even walk briskly, but running…. Eh, well, running is pretty much not okay.
On this day, I was running.
So, let’s recap.
I’m a mess. My kids are screaming that they want pop and candy and cupcakes and in between the “no’s!” I am repeating “Frozen Pizza. Milk. Bread. Trashbags. Bleach. Frozen Pizza. Milk. Bread. Trashbags. Bleach.” Old makeup under my eyes, breakfast on my shirt, hungry kids in the grocery store at 5:15 announcing loudly that they “are starving!” …. and I’m running. We are failing miserably on the do not draw attention to ourselves part of my prayer.
I screeched to a stop next to the frozen pizza and did my own Chinese fire drill around the cart grabbing the pizza and throwing it underneath as I ran back towards the handle and took off again…
It was then that I met eyes with her and her disapproving glare. She was one of those women who looked like she had been up since 5 am with her makeup on and her husband’s breakfast made before he even got out of bed.
It could have been the running, or the oatmeal on my shirt, or the fighting screaming toddlers, but no matter what caused her to give me that look – it was on purpose. I knew it, and so did she.
So, I smiled at her, grabbed the final item on my list, and made it to the checkout lines. I had survived an overall successful shopping trip.
As I drove away, I could not imagine what that woman thought of me. Or how she might have looked at me if my appearance had been different – or my actions had been different-or if my kids had acted differently.
She judged what she saw without seeing… me. And I did the same thing to her. I saw her actions, but I didn’t see the woman behind them. Perhaps she had a hard day, or a hard week or even a hard year. Maybe her story was full of things I will never understand. But the truth is, neither of us wanted to feel as though the other woman didn’t understand her story.
But we do this a lot don’t we.
We hope and pray that others will have grace for us, while quietly categorizing and labeling and making split-second judgments of every other woman we encounter.
The silent smile and size-up.
We don’t even mean to do it… well… maybe that’s not true…. Maybe we have just done it for so long that we don’t even notice we are doing it anymore.
And really… it’s awful.
So here is my promise:
I promise not to form opinions of you with your beautiful make up and your disapproving looks if you could try not to judge me by the 5 minutes that you observed in the store. Deal?
I will not judge you when you when you walk into the restaurant in your pajamas at 5:30 with a baby on your hip without knowing your story.
I promise to understand that when I see you snap at your kids in public there are likely hours of love and gentle parenting that I do not see.
And I will appreciate the grace that you give me when I drop my kids off at school in the jeans that I grabbed from my bedroom floor and the shirt that I had to sniff to see if it was clean.
I will make every effort to see… you. Not a quick tally of everything I can take in about you in just a few seconds…Not my competition… But my comrade in the trenches of life as together we find our way towards grace…
Because you are just like me.
The single woman who does not have children and the veteran momma 5 times over…
The woman who yelled at the waiter or the gal who went out of her way to help the older man at the store…
You who homeschool or public school or private school…
You who breastfeed or bottle feed…
The woman who ran into the convenient store in her pajama pants and the woman who held the door for her in her cardigan and boots…
You who bought your kids the toy they demanded and the woman who took blows from toddler fists as she walked away from the toy aisle with screaming children…
The woman who spends her day filing papers and the woman who spends her day re-filling sippy cups…
You single women praying to meet a godly man and you women who are knee deep in married memories…
You are all just like me – daughter of the Most-High God, beautifully and wonderfully made, created by the King of Kings, loved by the Lord of Lords, precious, powerful, His!
The next time I see you in the store I promise to remember that you are nothing less.
I pray that the Lord would give me a heart to see you – not a sum of the parts of your day… but you… right in the middle of it … and I pray that you all might be able to do the same for me.
If you’ve read Hope Unfolding, this is the story I am talking about on page 141! If you haven’t read it yet, grab a copy and learn more here!