A few Sunday ago, our pastor reminded us that all good things in our lives are a result of God’s grace. He gave an illustration of a young man he knew who was so excited by God that he witnessed to the wait staff at restaurants and shouted “Grace!” any time he felt blessed. When our pastor mentioned that people often thought he was weird, my first reaction was indignation. How could someone think a person was weird, just because he was enthusiastic about God’s grace?
And then I remembered a time when I was guilty of the exact same behavior.
Many years ago, I drove to visit my friend, who lived in the South. Since my stay included a weekend, we went to her church on Sunday morning. She had told me many times how much she loved her pastor’s messages, so I was looking forward to listening to what he had to say.
After a half hour of worship, the pastor stepped onto the stage and began preaching. When he finished his first sentence, the woman sitting in the row in front of me shouted, “Amen!” A few minutes later, she shouted, “Yes, sir!” I was getting a kick out of hearing her affirmations proclaimed with her strong southern accent.
Five minutes later, I was no longer quite so amused. Every time the pastor drew breath, this woman had something to add. “Amen!” “Speak on!” “Praise God!” And her favorite— “Yes, sir!” which she uttered like it was one word, with the stress on “Yes,” as in YES-sir.
Ten minutes into the message, I had switched from getting a kick out of her to wanting to kick her. She was driving me crazy! I was so irritated that I no longer had a clue what the pastor was saying.
Twenty minutes into the message, I sat behind her with my teeth clenched, trying to resist the urge to smack her over the head with my Bible and tell her to shut up already. What was the matter with her? I looked around at the other members of the church, but no one else seemed annoyed by her constant stream of declarations. How these people could concentrate on the message and ignore this woman every Sunday was beyond me.
The only other times that I have counted the minutes for the message to end have been when I really, really needed to use the restroom. (Maybe it’s just me, but I always feel rude leaving my seat while the pastor is talking.) But that Sunday, when the pastor finished and bowed his head in prayer, I exhaled in immense relief.
“Do you know that lady sitting in front of us?” I asked my friend when we climbed into her car. “She was making me bats!”
“Yeah, I know her,” she said.
“Does she do that every Sunday?”
She nodded. “Pretty much.”
“How can you stand it?”
“Well, one time I asked her why she did that,” my friend said as she pulled out of the parking lot. “And you know what she said? She told me that if I knew what God had done for her, I’d be shouting too.”
I looked out the window as shame drenched me. I’d been annoyed, even contemplating physical violence, because a woman was so grateful for God’s grace in her life that she couldn’t contain herself.
Since my friend lives in the country, the ride home from church took almost an hour. But I needed every minute to ask God’s forgiveness for being judgmental and unloving toward my sister in the Lord.
Maybe I didn’t know how much God had done for her, but that didn’t matter. Every, single one of us is saved by grace through faith—a gift from God that we didn’t earn and can’t accomplish ourselves. Instead of railing against her, I should have been praising God alongside her.
Because my big God has done a lot for me, too.
Actually, more than a lot.
He has done everything.