You might be a Serial Line Switcher if you cannot overcome the desire to back up your buggy and bail the moment you see a cashier flip on the blinking light above her register and call for a price check, or if the words, “I can take someone over here,” causes your heart to race and begin an immediate three-point turn in a checkout aisle. I can totally relate.  Life is short, time is precious and I too want to leave the store sometime before the bananas ripen.

However, the other day I caught a glimpse of myself, thirty-five years ago, in the eyes of the woman ahead of me—and it made me stay.  She was trying to use coupons in conjunction with her EBT card, and as the paperwork began to stack up, the other shoppers in line unapologetically hit reverse and made hasty exits accompanied with body language that spoke volumes of disdain.  As the cashier gathered the coupons and finally began to ring up her groceries, she looked at me, gave an embarrassed shrug of her shoulder and silently mouthed, “Sorry.”

“No problem,” I replied, and plucked a copy of Woman’s World from the magazine rack to read the secret of how to lose twenty pounds in twenty days. But I wasn’t reading.  I was remembering.  Remembering the days when I too stood in a line, with people I knew looking at me, making my way towards a cashier with a big sign that read, “Food Stamps Only.”

It was a time in my life when I really needed a temporary hand-up—not a permanent hand-out—but had no way of explaining the difference to those around me.  How I thank God for His provision for me during that season of my life.  How amazing to recall the way He orchestrated the greatest bounce-back of my life and moved me from a welfare line to a receiving line as a military wife.

“I’ve got your back,” I thought as I watched her dig through her purse and lean to kiss the toddler tugging at her sweater. “I’ll stay here, cover for you, and smile anyone away who looks as if they want to give you a hard time.  I’ve been where you are.  I know how this feels.”

And isn’t that how it is? We live life forward but understand it backward.  The Bible has another way of saying that. It talks about how God “comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, He brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 The Message      

I can assure you–from personal experience—that God is the master of taking messy, complicated, embarrassing hard times, and turning them around to work for good in our lives. He loves us just the way we are, in the middle of our mess, but too much to leave us there. He lifts us up with a new Spirit when we turn to Him, renews our strength, and over time teaches us how to turn what used to be impatient anger into understanding compassion for others.

Maybe you’ve been there too. Comment in the space belowjoin the conversation—and be an encouragement to someone else today.

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