I pulled up to our neighborhood Walgreen’s recently, shut off the engine of my burly van and sighed deeply. I’m home, I thought. A near-giddiness swelled within me as I made my way toward its doors. My wife wants to know what it is about Walgreen’s that catches my fancy and I tell her they treat me special. The people are friendly, greeting you with a robust “Welcome to Walgreen’s” as soon as they spot your figger coming through the door. It’s new. It’s well-lit and clean. The aisles are wide. The prices? They’re okay, not the best in town, but easily overlooked because of its intangibles. Let me go back to the people there treat me special.
What is it with me?
At Walgreen’s or otherwise, I somehow feel I deserve deferential treatment. I know I’m not the Dolly Llama or anything, but I do want its employees to approach me with, well, flowers in hand and face to the ground and see that I have everything I need. I don’t want to be shadowed (like a used car dealer), mind you, but I want you there when I need you. I shouldn’t have to wait for or track down some help. And Walgreen’s doesn’t make me do that. So I go back. Again and again.
Same goes with restaurant service. If I perchance garner a server with attitude, there goes their twenty percent tip. I’m giving them fifteen percent and not a solitary cent more (I jest, of course, but I do entertain the thought). I frequent the places that are redolent of the “Cheers” atmosphere. Places where my presence means something as soon as I come through the door and where Sam (sans Carla—fifteen percent, remember?) is at the ready to make my experience unforgettable.
Out on the highway it’s no different. I expect people to treat me with dignity and get out of my way when I have somewhere to be. God help them when they don’t. If something happens to upset me, I begin fishing for the needles that came with my mental voodoo doll kit and commence to calling down curses and watching them squirm. Not road rage, mind you. I don’t lay on the horn or wave at them with one finger or chase them down. It’s in my head, I tell you. It’s the thoughts that come to me that I immediately (sometimes much slower than that) have to take to the Cross.
I mean, what is it with me?
Why am I attracted to those who coddle, pamper and encourage me? And why do I work hard to avoid those who ‘have my number’? I guess it’s because I still opt for my own sovereignty far too often. I occasionally like to hear my own national flag flapping in the breezes of self-actualization. I like to control my own environment. To pad it and preen it. I want to feel good. To be happy. I don’t want to be worshipped but I don’t mind being revered either. I still like to hop up on the throne and bid some come forth, others stay away; wave my sceptre, go here, do that, bring me…(didja notice? lotta ‘I’s’ in that paragraph)
If the gospel means anything, it means, as I heard a friend say recently, the “blotting out of my own sovereignty.” Adam (or ‘A-Damn’) wanted his own rule over God’s rule. It wasn’t about eating an apple, by the way, it was about Who Rules?
(Scene One: Adam Talks To Serpent) Yeah, who does God think He is anyway? My way: happiness, wiggle room and choice. His way: narrow, restrictive and grievously uncomfortable. Yeah, you’re right Mr. Weird- slimy- creature- who- gives- me- the- willies- yet- intrigues- me- at- the- same- time, I’m gonna take your counsel ’cause it seems to me that if I’m gonna have dominion on this planet I should make the rules, so Rule #1: My Happiness is All There Is. Rule #2: There is no Rule #2.
(Scene Two: Theater Goes Dark. Adam Screams. Sulfurous smell fills auditorium. CURTAINS!)
Jesus came to this devil-infested earth in the form of a man, but so much less than a man. He came as a Servant-Man. God of all gods humbled Himself as a Jewish servant of poor parentage; a slave, as it were, living under Lex Romana. The scriptures say He “emptied Himself” (Philippians 2:7), or, as the Old King James says, “He made Himself of no reputation.”
He didn’t come as a King who disguised Himself as a pauper for a few days among His constituents to see what life was like on the other side of the tracks. He was a King who laid aside His vestments and birthed himself into a family of slaves and lived as a slave under Roman jurisdiction to show us what life was like out from under any other authority except God’s rule. Satan could not control Him. Herod could not oust Him. Caesar could not corral Him. Peter could not deter Him. Pharisees could not contest Him. The cross could not trump Him and the grave could not swallow Him!
Our Lord was willing to suffer any indignancy man could throw at Him. He loved through cheeks blushed red by the angry slaps of impudent men. He served while His own shirt bore the stains of water from bathed feet sloshed against Him. He cared as He fashioned earth and spit for the oozing eyes of a blind man. He whistled the choruses of Zion as He unguardedly touched the foul, necrotic wound of a leper. He subjected Himself to excommunication from His own Temple so that a chronically menstrual woman could worship freely for the first time in, perhaps, ever.
He showed us what it looks like, under the reign of the Almighty, how not to honk or gesture in an unkind way to a selfish commuter (and, of course, so much MORE). He taught us by a Life empowered by grace how, when snubbed by an impertinent cashier, to smile and bless her and to bear the offense gladly for the glory of God. He lived as the Second Man and died as the last Adam to supplant our need for our own sovereignty, which is sure emptiness and death, and to take His sovereignty which is eternal Life and Peace. No reputation here, yes, but well known in His Kingdom!
In lieu of all this I’ve come to a decision. I will forego my next trek to Walgreen’s and head down the street to Eckerds where I’m a nobody. That’s where Jesus would go.
It’s closer anyway.