I glared at the lady. How dare she!
A few minutes earlier, I had been sitting in a prime seat – on the end of a pew that was close to the front but not too close and had a perfect view of the stage. I had just settled in and gotten comfortable when nature called. Looking around, I didn’t spot anyone I knew that could hold my seat for me while I took a quick trip to the bathroom. Hmmm… could I wait an hour until after the speaker? No, that wasn’t going to work. So I did what so many other people were doing – letting my bag hold my space for me. I spread out some of the contents to make the bag easily spotted and to reserve a greater space than my single bag would do. They headed to the bathroom.
When I returned, I couldn’t believe it! A lady was sitting in my spot! How could she? Didn’t she see my bag? As I got closer to her, I noticed my bag and contents scrunched up at the very end of the pew. So, she had seen my bag but moved it so she could have that seat. No one does that to someone’s stuff! At least no one did it to anyone else’s stuff. My stuff? I guess I’m fair game. My inferior complex and insecurities rising, I was about to grab my stuff and head for a different seat.
No, wait! I had gotten there early so I could have a great seat. She had gotten there late and stolen my seat. No, what she did was not right. It wasn’t fair. And I wasn’t going to let her get away with it.
So instead of grabbing my stuff and fleeing, I picked up my bag, gave the lady a I-know-what-you-did-and-you’re-not-going-to-get-away-with-it face, and squeezed into that tiny space. It was just over a foot wide and since I was skinny at the time, I managed to fit in it, although I did bump into her a few times causing her to shift away from me a few inches.
With my arms held tightly to my body, I sat stiffly waiting for her to give up and move on down the pew. There actually was room between her and the next lady. But she didn’t move. So we both sat there hanging on to our spaces while the worship team began playing.
“How awesome is our God,” we sang, as we jostled for that space.
“I love You, Lord,” we sang as we glared sideways at each other.
Finally she shifted a couple of inches. Was it an accident? I quickly filled in that space before she could change her mind. Now my arms could hang comfortably by my side, but our shoulders were still touching.
“Oh, Lord, You’re beautiful,” we sang as we bumped shoulders, each wanting the other to give up.
“Make me a servant,” we sang as I squirmed against her and won an few more inches.
Feeling pleased with myself, my attention was redirected to the stage and the worship team. Worship? I was singing the words but my heart was far from it. I tried to focus, but guilt washed through me. Here I was singing to the Lord about how great He is, how much I love Him, and how I want to be His servant – all the while fighting over a tiny piece of the pew. I was a hypocrite. I was not worthy to be singing these songs. I was not worthy to even be there. Despising myself, I looked down at my lap and thought about leaving.
“Are you two done?” I heard the voice clearly in my spirit. God? Had to be! And He didn’t sound angry or disgusted or even sad. He sounded like I did when I waited for my students to finish jostling for spots on the rug during story time. I never got upset with them, they were just five year olds and learning to work out their social skills. I didn’t hold it against them. And it didn’t make me love them any less. Actually, I was frequently amused watching them, even when I had to intervene to get them to stop. Is that how God was looking at us? At me? He wasn’t angry with me? He still loved me? My guilt and self-condemnation drained away as His love filled me. And I began singing again, this time with all my heart, to the amazing God who loves me even when I’m not behaving perfectly – and cares enough to let me know!