Two weeks ago, I received a notice from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) that it was time to come in and renew my driver’s license. I don’t know what the DMV is like in other parts of the country, but in Southern California it is widely known to be a disaster – one that you don’t set foot in without an appointment. I promptly made my appointment online and headed for the DMV one morning last week.
As expected, the walk-in line was out the door. Never mind those people, I thought to myself. I brushed by them with my best “I have an appointment” demeanor, clutching my confirmation in hand, only to see a marginally shorter line ahead labeled “Appointments Wait Here.” My sigh was loud enough to be heard in a 15-20 person radius.
The line moved fairly quickly, but when there was only one person left ahead of me, it stopped moving. For some reason, this person’s transaction was taking almost 20 minutes. I stared at the back of his tattooed head, evaluating his low hanging shorts and the big gold jewelry draped around his neck.
Why can’t this guy get his life together? Why can’t he get his paperwork right? Why does this have to impact ME right now?
I broke. I marched up to the counter next to him and asked the worker if there was someone else who could help me because this appointment was taking a “ridiculous amount of time.” He shook his head and sent me back to wait. Two minutes later, the person ahead of me was done. I felt a knot in my stomach as he turned around, not knowing what to expect after I had been so rude.
He nodded at me meekly and said kindly, “Thank you so much for your patience.” Then he walked out the door.
I felt two inches – no, one inch – tall. Had I been him, I would have offered the impatient person behind me a few rude comments in return. Instead, the person I had judged to be somehow less important or worthy than myself responded with kindness and Christ-like humility.
Fast forward 10 minutes. I had to stand in line again, this time to have my picture taken. As if I hadn’t just experienced the sobering kindness of the gang member, I was already anxiously shifting back and forth evaluating the group of three teenage boys in front of me. They were loud and obnoxious and somehow I had concluded they didn’t deserve to have their pictures taken first. Then one turned to me with a big smile.
“Hey, why don’t you go ahead of us? There are three of us and only one of you, so it’s no problem for you to go first!”
I felt God throwing cold water on my face at that moment, trying to wake me up from my coma of arrogance. Twice in the span of an hour, strangers had exhibited humble and kind behavior that I lacked. I don’t know if any of them were Christians, but they acted as Christians and I did not.
I have long been one of the most impatient people God created. However, it wasn’t until these two experiences that I recognized arrogance sitting firmly at the root of my impatience. Without realizing it, my husband also brought this to my attention this weekend when we were at Sea World. I hadn’t said a word, but he must have known my patience was growing thin as a flood of people blocked our path to the Shamu show.
Unprompted, he said with a grin, “Just remember. God loves all these people the same.”
How rich his statement was! When we are impatient with other people, we implicitly believe that we are more important than they are; that our needs are more important than their needs. This is completely contrary to the fundamental truth that we are created equal and therefore God loves everyone the same. We objectively know and believe that, but many times we don’t live like we believe it. We don’t recognize the disconnect between that truth and our arrogance.
Next time I find myself feeling impatient with others, I’m going to focus on the humble reminder that God loves everyone the same. This is also an excellent way to approach impatience as a teachable moment with kids. The next time my kids are complaining about standing in a long line or waiting in traffic, I’m looking forward to talking about patience in the context of humility and God’s love for all of those people in front of us. Even the ones who get to see Shamu first.