When You Think No One is Watching

It may be that it was one of those mornings.

You’ve had them – you go to pour milk on the cereal only to discover someone put the container back empty…or you spill coffee on your last clean shirt and you’re already running 10 minutes late…or you lock the door behind you just as you realize you left your keys on the counter.

Maybe it’s more serious. A broken marriage, a wayward child, a job loss, health concerns.

Whatever the issue, I was keenly aware something was going on with the woman at the end of my pew. 

How? Well, it could have been the arms folded so tightly across her chest a crow bar couldn’t pry them open. 

Or maybe it was her sour look and eyes that glared, “Don’t mess with me today.” 

I first saw her when I first entered the sanctuary. Although fairly empty at the time, the church seats close to a thousand. So I knew as the music began and the lights went down, the pews would fill up quickly with those who had lingered in the café over conversation and coffee a few minutes too long. I made my way to the middle of the pew to leave room for others and she swung in after me taking the “easy exit” seat at the end of the pew.

Soon the service was underway and places to sit were indeed harder to find. To my left, the row was now filled, but to my right, there was still a chasm of pew between grumpy lady and me.

After a song or two, the singing stopped while instruments underscored the worship leader’s introduction. She encouraged the congregation to greet each other.  

I smiled and shook hands with those closest to me, then decided to make my way down to the other end of the pew, hand extended, "Good morning" on my lips.  My pew mate was not pleased at having her personal space invaded. Without fully uncrossing her arms, she half extended a hand to me and limply shook mine.

I returned to my place in the middle.

As we settled into our seats, I saw an usher out of the corner of my eye. He guided a family of four to sit in the space between her and me. She got up to let them in - then picked up her things and moved up to the next pew. I was surprised at such a flagrant message of rejection to those she left behind. I desperately wanted to say to them, “It’s not you; she came in here loaded for bear!”

A few minutes later, the usher returned with a few more people to seat. Which pew did he choose?  

You guessed it…the one she had moved to. 

Apparently HE had not gotten the message the first time around.

Once again, she got up to allow others to get by her and sit down. But this time she remained standing, leaning in to whisper something into the usher’s ear. Then in a huff, she picked up her Bible and purse, and indignantly marched out of the sanctuary.

I was embarrassed for her. I was embarrassed for my church. And I prayed that if these families were new to us, if this was their only exposure to people at our church, they would return and give our church a second chance.

Each day we’re faced with decisions. None of us get it right every time. I share this story not to sit in judgment of the choices one woman made, but to remind myself those choices I make affect others. I need to choose wisely and not act in the heat of the moment.

I have no idea what the consequences of this interaction were or will be. But I know her choices left an impression – on me, on both families, on the usher, on anyone else observing the scene.

We all have bad days – some worse than others.

We can find comfort in Matthew 11:28, Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

It’s good to know, we don’t have to tackle those days alone. And we can make a choice to turn our mindset around.

Psalm 100:4 instructs us to Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise: give thanks to Him, and praise His name.

When we thank Him in the midst of our pain, when we praise Him even though we’re hurting, we experience an attitude change. From there, we’re free to make better choices.

That’s my prayer for each of us today. That we would give God our burdens and let Him guide our choices. Amen.

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Toni loves God, her kids, caring for others, baking, chocolate!, and walking along the shores of her beloved lake – the setting for her blog. Toni has written devotions for christiandevotions.us and The Quiet Hour. She is praising God for the opportunity to make her passion - showing God’s love through practical acts of service - her new, full-time profession. As the Benevolence Ministry Manager for her church, she is able to hand car keys to a single mom, open the doors to the food pantry serving many area families, and assist those with urgent financial needs. Her life and ministry are living proof of the truth found in Ephesians 3:20 as God continues to do abundantly more than she could ever imagine.

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