There are some great customers that come into the dry cleaner where I work. But, we also have some patrons that make us want to run the other direction when we see them headed our way. Of course, we must bravely stand our ground with a smile on our faces and, in doing so, we sometimes learn lessons from the most unlikely people.
T hat's what happened to me the day that Mr. Samuels (name has been changed) came in during one of my shifts. Mr. Samuels is an older man who apparently had a prestigious position with one of the largest employers in our town. It is hard to tell if he is eccentric or whether time has taken its toll on his mind, but he is not your average customer. His reputation for being high-maintenance and easily angered precedes him around our workplace. The day I helped him, I didn't realize he was "the man" who was the subject of so many horror stories. By the time it dawned on me that he was the dreaded Mr. Samuels, it was too late to casually pawn him off on anyone else; I was stuck!
To make matters worse, because I was the one helping him, I inherited a sticky situation involving his clothes. I took a deep breath, dove right in, and explained the situation to him.
Without going into detail I was stuck between a rock and a hard place...a really hard place. My employers had an extensive history dealing with Mr. Samuels and had made their final decision regarding the work that had been done on his clothes. Mr. Samuels, upon hearing the resolution, was not happy and I braced myself for the fireworks that characterized his visits to our establishment...but they never came.
Instead, this man started pouring his heart out to me. He shared his radical beginnings in college, his past career as a scientist, and what I interpreted as his current feelings as a "has been" of no importance. However, it wasn't until I saw tears welling up in his eyes that I saw this man in the same light that God must see all of us. Despite the fact that this man could be very mean and unreasonable, obviously he had a heart that could be pierced. Yes, he is imperfect, but aren't we all? But, no matter how imperfect we are, most of us have hearts that feel pain when pierced. Sure, there is a lot than could be written about Mr. Samuels' behavior (and ours too), but that's not our focus. The focus is seeing things through God's eyes.
When this crusty guy got teary eyed, I saw him with a compassion I had never experienced. Maybe he is a cranky old man, but he is also a child of God. God loves him just like he loves unrighteous, sinful, and unclean you and me.
It wasn't the actions of Mr. Samuels, or of you and me, that sent Jesus to the cross and kept Him up there that day...it was His love and compassion, pure love and compassion; and mercy, grace, obedience, and the list goes on and on. God loves us despite the way we act and, even though it isn't always easy, we need to try to love and have the same compassion for others.
By the time Mr. Samuels left the building he had not uttered one word of anger toward me. He even told me I was a good kid! As for me, I had experienced something that allowed me to see through God's eyes and I think both Mr. Samuels and I benefited from our little exchange. And, get this...the very next day he came back with a smile on his face looking for a winter hat he dropped somewhere the previous day. Not only did he greet me with a happy face, but I never felt the urge to run in the opposite direction when I saw him coming.
I guess that is what can happen when practical Christianity sees things through God's eyes.