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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Anticipated Love

I swear, I will return to the praying series, but I’ve got something on my mind and I need to let it out.  Plus…I kind of need to get back into the swing of things.  Forgive me if I appear off my game a bit, or if I don’t drop some heavy knowledge on you.  I’ve done zero research for this post.  In fact, until an hour ago, I didn’t even realize that I was going to write about this.

I love baseball.  I love it because I feel the intelligence of it is undervalued.  The casual fan just sees players standing around and waiting for the ball to actually be hit to them.  In truth, on every pitch, a player is positioning himself in anticipation of where the ball might be hit.  If the ball is put into play, all nine fielders have a specific responsibility depending on where the ball is hit.  No one should just be standing and watching.  Baseball is not a game of reacting to what’s happening.  It’s a game of anticipating what could happen and knowing what to do in every situation.

Baseball is the perfect sport for me because I’m a thinker.  I see the world in front of me, and my mind forms all the different scenarios that could play out…and how I should respond to each one.  I’ll give you a morbid example: I have thought about what to do in the case of an intruder in my house in the middle of the night.  I have played out every possible situation that I can think of, and have no less than six options ready to go to keep my family safe.

Maybe some of you are the same way.  I would imagine that it’s safe to say that everyone does a little anticipating to some degree.  However, have you ever considered what you’re anticipating for?

You.

How you will react to a certain situation.  What you will do should “this” or “that” happen.  What you will say given the opportunity.

Have you ever stopped to consider what the world would be like if we began to anticipate for others?

Here’s how this notion came to me in the first place: After school today, I went to the grocery store.  As usual at this time of the day, the place was packed.  I looped into the parking lot, and a smile lit my face.  Not more than twenty feet from the store’s doors was a premium parking space.  You know the one I’m talking about—the one immediately next to the handicapped spot.  At this particular store, it’s even better: To your left is the handicapped spot.  However, because they have to make sure that there’s room for any kind of wheelchair-accessible door, there’s nearly an entire second, un-usable spot between their parking spot and yours.  Immediately to your right is the rack that holds your shopping carts when you’re finished with them.  Time-wise, and protecting your car from other cars-wise, it’s the dream spot.  It’s the one that you honestly have to check twice to make sure it isn’t handicapped as well.

Isn’t that the story of some of our lives?  The ideal parking space.  Man, we hate parking, especially if it means we’ll have to spend an extra minute walking from a spot further away.  (Honestly, time it.  If you park at the end of the lot vs the front, you will walk maybe sixty whole seconds longer to reach the store.)

I almost didn’t want to get out of the car.  I wanted to roll down the window, soak in the sun, and bask in my parking victory.  Reluctantly, I did exit the vehicle, and spent the next hour fighting a different form of traffic inside.

Grocery shopping is where my anticipation skills really shine.  I know what I want.  I know what aisle everything is in.  Therefore, I move quickly.  If I turn a corner and see a little old lady in the middle of the aisle staring at all the different bags of flour, I whip down the next aisle, get what I want from there, and return to her aisle on the side that I need…while grandma is still picking her bag of flour.

Grrr!!  I have no time or patience for slow-moving, aisle-hogging, can’t-decide-which-brand-of-imitation-Frosted-Flakes-I-want people…and not to sound overly critical, but it’s usually the elderly and women with children.  Beep, beep, people!!  I have ice cream melting, a dog at home that needs to pee, and no time to wait on you.

At least I know that when I finally escape this place, my car is waiting in its dream location.

You see the problem already, don’t you…but have you stretched it far enough?  Have you anticipated where I’m going?  Are you already beginning to form a response (to me or—hopefully—internally)?

Aren’t we supposed to love our neighbors?  Shouldn’t this extend to those in the store who are slowing us down?  It’s easy to love our neighbors on our own conditions.  When it’s convenient for us, right?  But after spending an hour at the grocery store, how often do you really let the old man or the mother of two go ahead of you in line when they only have a couple of items vs your stuffed cart?  You know it’s the right thing to do, but how often do you do it?

Today, as I jet-propelled down an aisle, a little old lady was reaching to the top of a stand for some false-teeth gel (why they put something like that at the top where most of them can’t reach it is beyond me).  My brain said to help her, but before I reached her, she had grabbed the box…and in the process knocked over half-a-dozen items.  Being the kind, caring, love-your-neighbor Christian that I am, I picked up the fallen items for her.  Took no time at all.  I barely had to slow down my cart.  Happy to do it!!

In a flash, I was gone (There is milk to buy!!).  I felt good.  I had done a good deed and helped someone in need.  I thought about what the world would be like if we all took a couple of seconds out of our day to properly love our neighbors when we saw a need.  Then that thought flitted from my mind as I couldn’t believe my luck.  First the parking space, then a checkout line with no one in it?  God must be rewarding me for helping the little old lady.  I truly am blessed.

I bought my groceries at the empty checkout lane closest to the doors.  Seriously, had there not been a wall separating us, I could have skipped the bags altogether and just placed each item in my car.  I was that close.

However, it was on the brief trip to my car that it happened.

The moment of clarity.

Of pure humbleness.

God saying, “Oh, yeah, high-and-mighty?  Just how much do you love your neighbor?  How far are you willing to go?”

The purpose of this post.

As I began putting the groceries in the trunk of my car at the front of a cramped parking lot, I watched a mother walking towards the store.  Her baby was wrapped snuggly in her arms, but you could tell by her face and the way that she walked that it had been a l-o-n-g and t-i-r-i-n-g day.  That’s when it hit me.

Inside that packed store were primarily mothers (generally with their kids) and the elderly.  Now, it’s wonderful if I have the chance to love my neighbor by picking up some items that one of them knocks over, or if I let them skip ahead of me in line.  Good for me, I’m a nice person.  (Sarcastic yay included.)  At what point do we begin to think ahead?  At what point do we anticipate that demonstration of caring and love?

Who needs that premium parking spot more: me or the mother with the kicking and screaming infant?  I said it takes all of sixty additional seconds to walk from the back of the parking lot vs the front of it.  Those sixty seconds mean nothing to me.  Nothing.  But that longer walk means a lot more to the elderly couple with bad hips and knees.  To them, the additional walking means more pain.

We are to love one another, but how far out of our way do we go to do that?  Do we just love our neighbors when the opportunities arise, or do we realize that opportunities exist every second of every day?

We just need to anticipate them better.