Dealing with our first impulse

Yesterday was a bit of a strange day. I spent almost the entire day either in the car [with no radio] delivering our Saturday night postcards to three different Post Offices in the metroplex. When we send out these mass mailings, we work with a company called Outreach, who prints all the cards, adds the labels, and sorts the items for a bulk mail shipment. Depending on where the cards are going in Mansfield, they originate in different Post Office’s and if you are willing to drive the items to the appropriate location, you save a lot of money. One of the funny notes is that of the 5,000+ cards we are sending to our area, I only left 12 of them at the Mansfield Post Office! The rest were delivered to Fort Worth & Coppell.

You’ve probably heard this before, but the Post Office isn’t known for their customer service. [Sorry if any postal workers are reading this!] I did interact with several people yesterday who were very helpful including the Mansfield Postmaster. She was wonderful! But at my last stop in Fort Worth, I ran into trouble.

My first problem was that I couldn’t seem to find the right spot to drop off the cards. I went to four different spots [at the direction of various P.O. employees] before I found what appeared to be the correct location. The gentleman took my paperwork and I went back to the car to get the trays of postcards. When I returned with my cards, I discovered that my shipment was really too small for his area, and I needed to go down the warehouse about 100 yards to another station.

I returned 10 minutes later because there wasn’t anyone at the other station, and so with a big sigh, the original “expeditor” took my paperwork back to process my shipment. I could tell he was a little disgusted with me, though I wasn’t quite sure why. He started to lecture me a bit on the process. I apologized for my ignorance and let him know this was my first time. He went on to tell me that he didn’t have to accept my shipment because of my errors and at this point, I finally realized what was going on.

He was trying to pick a fight.

It was really quite strange. With every statement that he made, his voice became more elevated and his tone grew more harsh. To be quite honest, it was making me angry. I was there because other Postal workers had told me to go see him. I had simply followed the instructions of his co-workers. But, I was also tired. This was my last box to drop off. I had no desire to getting into a verbal spat with this gentleman, so I didn’t. I apologized. I thanked him for his instruction and “training” so that I could do it right next time. What I was somewhat surprised to see was the very evident disappointment I sensed from him that I didn’t argue. As quickly as his voice had elevated, it soon dropped off again. He finished the paperwork, handed me my receipt and I was on my way.

On my way home [with no radio] I thought a lot about that exchange. I thought about how clear it was to me that this individual wanted to make me mad and I wondered what made him so angry. Was it really something I had done or was it something that happened 5 minutes before I walked up? Was it something his wife said to him before he left for work this morning? Did he get another notice in the mail about an unpaid debt or a threat to foreclose on his house? Is one of his family members ill? Driving home I thought about the thousands of things that might have been going on in his life that had made him angry that day.

This weekend we’re talking about Fasting and Sabbath; two of the most mentioned spiritual practices in the bible. My exchange with the gentleman at the Post Office reminded me of one of the main reasons we are encouraged to participate in both of these practices. For many of us, to fast or to rest is really an exercise in fighting the impulses our selfish will is seek to impose on us. It’s hard to say no to the donut at the office, the candy on a co-workers desk, or to the invitation to lunch on that day we’ve set aside to fast. For others, the idea of resting is a challenge to our natural inclination to “keep ourselves busy.” The reasons for our activity are many. It feeds our identity. It elevates our self-esteem. Or, perhaps it helps us forget about some other wound we have in our life that remains unhealed. Regardless of what the reasoning is, to fast and to rest are meant to engage and fight those impulses. Why?

Because our first impulse is often wrong.

My first impulse yesterday was to let that guy have it. I didn’t deserve to be treated that way. He made me angry, but I didn’t take his bait. I wanted to, but for some reason, I didn’t. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve taken the bait before. We all have, but for whatever reason, yesterday I was able to walk away.

I heard Brian McLaren say once that, “I never feel spiritual when I fast.” That was really encouraging to me because I don’t either. Brian went on to say that in his life, it took several years of being faithful in that practice to recognize the change that it brought to his heart. Now that might not be the most encouraging idea for us to consider today… that a Life of Discipline takes years to bear fruit… but I think he’s right.

It does take time, but it’s the only thing that can prepare us for the demands that discipleship brings… We’ll be coming back to that idea again and again throughout this series.

One more thing… if you’ve made it this long! We also heard some exciting news yesterday that I look forward to sharing with our Saturday night community this weekend. For other readers, I’ll post it here on Sunday morning.


One Response to “Dealing with our first impulse”

  1. Karen says:

    Wow! I knew it would be exciting, but I had no idea that mailing the cards would be that exciting. On another note this speaks to me so well: “to fast or to rest is really an exercise in fighting the impulses our selfish will is seek[ing] to impose on us” This weekend’s message will be a real challenge for me!

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