Turning Tables

I must have been in my early 20s. I was at the grocery store with my grandma, picking up a couple things for dinner. We got in the Express check-out line, right behind a woman with a cart loaded with two week’s worth of food.

Grandma leaned in to the woman and quietly said, “Excuse me,” and then, “This is the line for the express check-out. You’re only allowed to have twenty items.”

I don’t remember exactly what the woman said in response, but she did not take my grandmother’s “meddling” well. Whatever it was the woman said, I might have said something even ruder back, and the game was on. Believe it or not, I’ve never been much of one to back down from a fight someone else has started (SURPRISE!).

I don’t remember who “won” the war of angry words, but it was probably me. I’ve never been one to back down from a fight someone else has started. Surprise.

Later, in the car, Grandma quietly confided that she hadn’t meant to call the other woman out at all. I think she was a little embarrassed by my overreaction. Pure as pure can be, 100% light and sweetness, my grandma never imagined that anyone else could ever be anything but good. She assumed the other woman simply hadn’t seen the sign, and therefore would be grateful for the information. She hoped to spare her the embarrassment of being in the wrong line.

Soft on the inside and soft on the outside, the softest soft you’ve ever known, clear through to the center. Soft as can be.

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But don’t mistake that for weakness. Grandma didn’t need my mother bear act to protect her. Without me, the conversation would have de-escalated rather than escalated. You can’t be exposed to Grandma’s kind of purity and not somehow absorb some of it, come away a better person for having been in its presence.

I envy my grandma’s softness. I was born with little enough of it. Age and maturity (or what passes for it, anyway) have softened some of my edges (along with my waistline), but age and practice have also sharpened my pen (metaphorically speaking) and my wit. And I still respond with a hair-trigger mother bear instinct when someone attacks one of mine.

I think I might like to be softer.

Problem is, soft is hard. Maybe you think it’s hard to stand up and fight, to walk into the durm and strang of the battle, weapons drawn. It is hard in its own way, I suppose, but relatively speaking, righteous anger is a breeze. Remember Jesus in the temple, overturning the money changer’s tables and driving them out with a braided whip? No? I think the reason most people don’t remember that part of the story is that it was the easy part.

Not comparing myself to Jesus or anything, but I can turn tables over like a BOSS. Especially if they’re not too heavy.

Soft is harder.

Soft is believing the best of people, even when they’ve inconvenienced you. Soft is listening to people, even when you don’t understand where they’re coming from. Soft is knowing that when someone hurts you, your only job is to accept it and them.

Soft is where real transformation happens.

You couldn’t know my grandma without being changed, without becoming a better person. She didn’t have to tell you what you were doing wrong. All she ever did was see what was right about you, and then you wanted to be that person all the time. She made you better because she believed you already were.

Soft is where real transformation happens.

What we remember about Jesus, isn’t the righteous anger in the temple. What we remember is the softness, the compassion, and, ultimately, the quiet humility in a crown of thorns.

There is power in words, in battle, in weapons–yes. But the real power lies in the other direction. The transformative power lies in softness.

My grandma had it figured out. I’d like to be more like her someday.

Soon, maybe.

I just. It’s just this… one… more…

PEOPLE ARE WRONG ON THE INTERNET.

I’ve got a few more tables to turn over. Sorry, Grandma. Thank you for loving me anyway.

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2 thoughts on “Turning Tables”

  1. People are SO wrong on the internet. They are driving me crazy. Barbara Brown Taylor has promised that she will talk a little bit about how to write so people who disagree with us might actually listen. Someone had asked her, “Could you talk about that, because you do it so well,” and she made a guttural sound and said, “You should see the emails I get.”

    1. Why do I think she’s going to say something about “listening” and “being vulnerable” and “maybe accepting that you might be wrong about some things”? Gosh, I hate it when people do that. Why can’t we just bluster around being right all the time like we know we are??

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