Southern California likes playing tricks on it's drivers. Malls and other large businesses have been required to have a certain number of parking spaces per square foot of store building, but the retailers don't want to spend a whole lot of money on the property needed for parking. Instead, they reduce the size of the parking space, forgetting that just a few years ago everyone in southern California was buying SUVs like they were Apple products. What ends up happening is a bit like parking lot Chess. Cars cannot fit side by side so the lot is full of cars in every other space with thin empty spaces left that no one can fit into. The remaining un-parked wanna-be customers end up circling the parking lot like sharks with their teeth bared out of frustration. Occasionally someone gets brave enough or desperate enough to try to wedge themselves into one of the tiny, in between, spaces, sometimes managing to make it into the space, but, once parked, they sit trapped in their cars, unsure how to get their door open enough to squeeze themselves out. This is where I imagine retail owners watching and laughing at us while watching parking lot security footage.
Ah well, we are at least all in it together.
This scenario is what frequently leads me to parking lot craziness. The thing that finally makes my hands vise grip the steering wheel is when someone parks cattywampus (aka. askew or crooked for those not raised in Texas) causing parking next to them nearly impossible.
My husband and I were in this very situation the other day and I found myself thinking all kinds of crazy things about the driver of the mis-parked car. "What kind of driver???" I felt my stomach tighten and frustration taking over what was an otherwise normal morning.
I know you might be thinking, "Get a grip, Sarah, it's just a parking spot." I know, I know. I told myself the same thing. I started to give the parker the benefit of the doubt. Then it dawned on me! What if this mis-parker was only parking that way to avoid someone who had parked crazily on the other side of them and now that other car has left, leaving this person looking like they shouldn't be allowed to drive?
I quickly felt badly for my thoughts and began to wonder how many times I do this with other people in my daily non-parking lot related life. When someone rubs me the wrong way or creates a mess or ignores the rules or is too pushy or too needy, etc., etc. What are the chances that they are just living out the effects of someone living crookedly before them making them shape their lives around someone else's neglect?
It's quite possible and frequently quite probable.
The waitress who is getting everything wrong with my order and is never going to refill my drink?
The person who completely ignored me standing in line and has now cut directly in front of me?
The person on the plane, in the seat directly behind me, that is talking so loudly that the people in the homes we are flying over can hear them?
The customer "service" representative on the phone line who could care less about helping me and sounds like they are reading off a script?
Each of these people are the ones who seem like they are in my way, encroaching on my day, making my life more difficult. But, now I find myself thinking, "What came before me sitting in this restaurant, in this booth feeling neglected by this waitress?" Maybe she is working the end of a double shift because she is being forced to cover for someone who called in "sick" because they stayed up too late partying the night before.
I suppose this kind of thinking is what you do when you put others before yourself.
I think the Message bible has a perfect way of translating Matthew 7:1-5
"Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It's easy to see a smudge on your neighbor's face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, 'Let me wash your face for you,' when your own face is distorted by contempt? It's this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor."
What are the things that set you off that you realize you need to rethink, giving someone else grace?
What is the sneer on your face that you are starting to see has taken up residency there?
I would say that mine is frequently the sneer of bitterness. Sometimes it is shaped by someone who came before me but always fueled by my own sin. Unfortunately I am now seeing that it is also encroaching on the others around me, shaping their days. I am the person who has mis-parked and is now causing the mis-parking of the whole lot.
I am taking the washcloth to my own face. This sneer will not be how people see me.
Lord, you are the ultimate judge and you know what is best for me. I am thankful that you have extended your grace and mercy to me time and time again. Help me do the same.