The Wal-Mart Heart Change

I could feel it increasing in my heart.  My fingers tapped on the shopping cart as the impatience within escalated.

Standing in the speedy checkout line at Wal-Mart, I was feeling pressed for time.  I hadn’t wanted to stop at Wal-Mart, but I needed glitter.  Never in my life have I purchased glitter, so it took a bit of meandering before I found what I needed.  A few other items found their way into my hands and then I was at the checkout.  Waiting.

The sense of urgency was palpable in Wal-Mart.  I could feel it because I had places to be, things to do, and the rush of shoppers waiting at the checkout lines declared that they had similar situations.  The clerk tending the cash register was taking care of one customer and it seemed to take a while.  His credit card wasn’t accepted and he was on the phone.

Minutes passed.  I kept eyeing other lines, watching them line up and pass through while I waited.  Finally, the woman ahead of me moved forward in line.  Change needed to be dispensed into the tray and we watched her unroll two packs of quarters.  Then the cashier counted the gifts bags.

1…2…3…4…5…6…7…8…9…10

10 gifts bags.  Then she swiped one.  And repeated the act seven more times.  She stopped and began to count the number of bags on the screen.  But she must have lost track of which line she was on so she took a piece of paper, holding it up to guide herself line by line.  The customer told her that she had only scanned eight but there were ten.  The cashier finished counting, swiped another, and then keyed in another.

I’m feeling impatient, inwardly reminding myself that it is Advent, the season of waiting.  But for some reason, my time feels more important.  Perhaps it is part of the human condition.  We are quick to hurry others, almost insulted that they should waste our precious time.

I will my heart to stop pounding with impatience.  Almost like hushing a baby, I remind my heart that there is enough time for what is necessary.  Slow down, slow down.  Do what you tell your students to do: practice patience, seek holiness in the simple, ordinary things in life.  Be faithful in small matters.

And my heart slows.  When I approach the cashier, I am greeting her as though I never waited.  I am striving to not make myself the most important person in the situation.  The anxious tapping of impatience is brushed away for a moment, and I try to hang onto this as I navigate the parking lot and the line of cars waiting to exit.

Later, I will lose this patience and peace.  I will rush about, attempting to do in a couple hours what should have been done in days.  And I will miss the joy of the present moment and seek to tend to things rather than to people.  But for all the missteps that will later follow, I am reminded of that moment in the checkout line.  That moment when my agitated heart encountered the peace that it was always meant to have.

Say to the fainthearted, “Take courage and fear not. Behold, our God will come and will save us.” -Isaiah 35:4

There He is: saving me from myself in the Wal-Mart checkout line.

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