“Do you wanna pop me one in the face yet?”
The gray-haired woman standing in the meat department of my local grocery store grinned at me obnoxiously and awaited my reply. I smiled back weakly, but kept quiet.
After all, what could I say? That yes, I was quite ready to pop her one in the face? That as a mother of eight, I like to think I have a high tolerance for pain and annoying behavior, but that standing beside her for several minutes, waiting and waiting and waaaaaaaaaiting for her to choose a steak from the stacks before us so that I could have a chance to do the same was driving me to the brink? That as she mauled the meats and poked the packages, all I could think was “Woman! If you aren’t going to buy that particular item, please have the decency not to destroy it so that the poor person who comes along behind you doesn’t wind up choosing a steak for her husband’s Father’s Day dinner and paying $12.99/pound for contaminated meat products!”?
No. I could not say these things. I could only roll my eyes at my daughter, shift my weight from foot to foot, and swallow a sigh.
When at last she chose one and moved on, I picked through the steaks myself and reflected on the silliness of my own frustration. I wasn’t in a hurry. Not really, anyway. She might have cost me several minutes of waiting, but what are those minutes to me? I am sure that I waste that much time and more in the course of most days.
It’s just that this particular time-wasting wasn’t of my choosing. It was imposed upon me.
We like to pick our pains. We like to choose our crosses. And so, when even a tiny pain is imposed upon us, it sometimes feels like more than we can bear. The very first part of offering up, it occurs to me, is accepting the fact that we don’t get to choose what to offer up. We don’t get to pick. We can only accept. And then we turn it into something that draws us closer to God or something that draws us further into ourselves. That’s the part we choose.