Under Your Skin

You never know what you’ll see at Walmart.  If you’re paying attention, that store—above all others—is never boring.

Recently, I was entering right as a woman was getting ready to leave.  Blocking her way, sat a Walmart employee, who leaned heavily into her chair.  Time had filled her face with wrinkles.  I’m sure she was someone’s grandma or maybe even a great grandmother.  Long in the tooth, some would call her.  Other’s might refer to her as a sweet old lady.  I’d call her tired.

In a nice, if not a bit bored, tone, the employee said, “I need to see your receipt,” just like she’d said to every other customer who had passed her during the day.

The customer could have been like everyone else.  She could have easily shown her receipt and walked out like it was no big deal.  But not this customer.  Oh no.  She swelled up as if to scare off a grizzly bear.  Then, loudly, she complained, “You wouldn’t need to see my receipt if you didn’t make me use the self-checkout.”  This began a rather loud and rude rebuke of this poor employee.  Somehow, this grandma was to blame for the number of lanes that weren’t open and the number of employees that weren’t hired.  But it was clear that the customer’s main gripe was with the self-checkout lanes.  She didn’t like them one bit and she was taking out her frustration on an innocent employee.

Self-checkout lanes really get some people riled up, don’t they?  The thing about getting riled up is that it doesn’t always lead to good things.  Remember how the Bible says that “the anger of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God” (Jam. 1:20)?  This customer, blaming and rebuking a tired grandmother, illustrates the point.

Regarding self-checkout lanes, some people like them and others despise them.  We are all entitled to our opinion.  But that woman reminded me about how we get blinded by the things that really get under our skin.

If I recall correctly, Walmart had receipt checkers before they had self-checkouts.  If Walmart didn’t, then I know other stores did (Costco and Best Buy come to mind).  But that didn’t matter to this woman.  Self-checkout lanes get under her skin.  As a result, she blamed anything she didn’t like on the issue that bothered her most.  She had become blinded by her pet peeve, and unfortunately, also obnoxious.

I wonder how often things like this happen on spiritual issues.  Many Jews in the first century were hyper-focused on the Sabbath.  It got under their skin.  As a result, it was easy for them to be blinded to the evidence that Jesus was the Christ.  He fulfilled prophecy and performed outstanding miracles.  But that didn’t matter to them.  All they could see was that Jesus hadn’t treated the Sabbath the way they thought it should be treated.  They didn’t just become obnoxious; they became murderous.

Might the same thing happen to us?  Are there issues that you get focused on which make you see it everywhere and in every subject?  Baptism is obviously important in the Scriptures, but that doesn’t mean every passage is about it.  If someone speaks about grace, do you correct them because they didn’t also mention baptism?  For some, I fear that is what has happened.

There are other subjects I’ve seen people let under their skin.  Home schooling.  Indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  Various issues surrounding how we worship.  And many more.  You can probably think of some spiritual subjects that consume a Christian and blind them to anything else.

Unfortunately, I suspect this is easier to see in others than in ourselves.  But after watching this rude and unreasonable customer, I’ve been reminded to make the effort to at least try and spot my own pet peeves.