Better instead of Bitter

My family and I spent the 4th of July holiday visiting relatives in Mississippi. The day after we returned, we saw two houses for sale and put an offer on one–a whirlwind of a day. Not only that, a day of rejoicing,  because the offer was accepted! But still, there were some everyday life chores that needed to be accomplished, since we’d been gone for several days.

Between viewing the two homes and signing a contract, I ran errands at the bank and grocery store and library. While waiting at the bank’s drive-through, I started to read the mail that I’d just retrieved from the mailbox–until I heard a gravelly, gruff voice.

I looked up to see an elderly man in the lane next to me. I wondered at first if he were too old to drive. Then I began listening to what he said. “Give me my money,” he told the bank teller on the other side of the glass. She must have questioned him, because he became more demanding:  “My ID? You don’t need that,” he spouted.

Then I heard the teller explain that he needed to send his photo ID through the tube from the drive-through into the bank so that she could process his request. She told him that she couldn’t give him the cash without proper ID. “Oh, yes you can–you’ve been doing it for years!” came the next outburst.

I was growing uncomfortable with the way he spoke to the teller. Not only were his words curt and insistent, but his tone and manners were rude, too.

Observing this exchange prompted different feelings in me–sorrow for the man whom I perceived to be lonely and disappointed with life and, therefore, grouchy. Concern for him–Does he take care of himself? Does anybody help him? Make sure he eats? Does he forget to take medication? 

He seemed to drive away before getting the money from his account that he’d come to retrieve, and as he left the bank, I had another thought. Please–PLEASE–Lord, don’t let me turn into a crotchety old woman. 

I do not know this man’s background or story, and I can only speculate that he might be lonely or soured on how his life turned out. So my heart is not to “judge” him; but I do want to learn from his behavior about the mistakes I don’t want to make myself. We all have our bad days, and I am not exempt from those at all. But as I grow older, I want my spirit to grow sweeter.

When I was younger, in my twenties, perhaps, I thought about how much better I might handle problems and set-backs as I got older, as I grew in maturity. But then as I’ve gotten older, I’ve looked around and seen people (my age, older, younger) who seem to have become so disillusioned with the world, so disenchanted with life and relationships and other people, that they view the world with disgust, distrust, or cynicism. They seem to have grown up and taken off their rose-colored glasses and put on mud-colored ones, instead.


That could happen to me, too, I realize. I could let life’s betrayals and wounds become the message to which I give my attention, the voice to which I listen. But I don’t want that. I want to listen to the truth, God’s truth, His truth about me and His truth about Himself.

So, with a deep and pleading cry, I prayed as I watched that sad, cantankerous man drive away from the bank, Please, Lord, let me learn from what I DON’T want to be. Please use my struggles and hurts to make me BETTER instead of BITTER. 



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