Nothing

I came home from the grocery store a bit heavy-hearted this morning. I think I’m beginning to realize how God has used a simple errand over the course of the last year and a half to deflate my pride. That’s how long we’ve qualified for food stamps and the WIC nutrition program. Using either of those government aids was difficult in the first few months because I always felt like people were looking at me, judging me and assuming things about me or my family. Then I got over it and realized it didn’t matter what they thought because I knew the truth. Now, I’m back to being aware of what people might think.

The last few times I’ve used a WIC check, which specifies the kinds and amounts of certain foods you can buy, the store’s register has not recognized an item that should be allowed for purchase. Most of the time, the clerks are friendly and helpful, as are the managers who help them rectify the problem. Today was about the same, but I just got the feeling that the clerk thought it was my fault that a block of cheese came up as unallowable, and even though the manager corrected the problem and found the price, I couldn’t shake the desire to defend myself. I always want to defend myself in these situations, even if everything goes right. I want to say, “I’m not stupid. I have a college degree. My husband works two jobs and is a graduate student. The stress is about killing us, but we’re in for the long haul to serve people as God has called us to do.”

And then I think, so what? So what if I did explain our family circumstances; what would it help? And why do I feel the need to tell them anything at all? If I’m honest, it’s because I want to set myself apart from “all those other people” who get government assistance. You know, the welfare moms who don’t have a high school education and  have four kids by four different guys who sit at home and mooch off the government.

Stereotype much? I’m just as guilty of judgment and prejudice as the people I think are judging me. So, I keep my mouth shut, respectfully respond, and walk out knowing that our family won’t be a WIC and food stamp family forever. Others, however, aren’t so lucky.

I wonder how many times Christ had to hold his tongue and how hard it was for Him to not completely humiliate His hearers with a statement like, “You do realize I’m God, right?” (His response in Matthew comes close, “O unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” 17:17)

Instead, we’re told, this was His attitude:

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” (Philippians 2:5-7)

This is a familiar passage, but what I’ve missed before is that to Christ, becoming human was becoming nothing in comparison to what He was and is. We are nothing compared with what He is, and we are nothing without Him.

I don’t want to be nothing, and I don’t want to be treated like nothing, but amazingly and unexplainably, in Christ, I am something and someone. To me that means that I don’t have to prove or defend myself to anyone.

Christ did not and He had infinitely greater reason than I.

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3 thoughts on “Nothing

  1. I really like that you wrote about this. When Zach starts Palmer we’ll qualify for food stamps, health subsidy and maybe even housing subsidies. It’s nothing to be wary or embarrassed about because the system was designed for those of us who need help while going through a hard time.
    Also, I know that it is so easy to judge people who use government assistance. One thing that I’ve learned in the last year or so is that a lot of those single moms without degrees are there because they’re in this cycle. They don’t have the skills to understand how to maintain a job or permanent home. They seek men and babies to gain love they’ve never had and don’t understand why that’s not okay. The worker that deals with their subsidies may be the only person who help the person understand what is and is not okay.
    I used to feel embarrassed when grocery shopping for work b/c they use food stamps, but the more I’ve seen and learned about other people’s lives and prayed I’ve found that it’s been easier to look at people with God’s eyes (still REALLY working on it though)
    Anyway…I Really like this post!

  2. Thanks for your post, Lisa! You are always so honest.

    I just read that approx. 45% of American infants (less than 1 yr. old) are on WIC. That’s like–practically everybody. you know what i mean? it’s nothing to be embarrassed about.

    I hate grocery shopping so much. but–I have 2 favorite clerks that I always go to. they are sweet and patient with the kids, and always give us all the advertised deals that they know about. they are wonderful! even when the lines are longer–i will wait to check out with one of them. maybe you could try to figure out which are particularly patient with the extra work it takes to do WIC?

    charlotte–i really appreciated your comment, also! That’s the truth–that once you start looking at people with God’s eyes, you’ll be less embarrassed, and less judgmental. It’s hard–and i catch myself commenting on other people sometimes–but it’s so worth it to consider the other person’s value. The welfare moms with 4 kids, the judgmental grocery store employees, and you Bartelt families are all created in His image, and worthy of our love and respect.

    Lately I’ve been trying to make someone’s day a little better every time I go to walmart. It’s REALLY hard for me because i’m not very outgoing, but I need to figure out how to stop focusing on myself and start focusing on others when i’m out and about. usually i’m just feeling stressed with keeping track of all the kids, and getting out of there before milo freaks out–but when i really try to focus on how others are doing–it helps.

    plus–i always think that maybe if i am chatty and friendly with the grocery store employees–they will be friendly with me when i need them to do something annoying like look in the back for more training wheels or deal with the WIC stuff.

    i love you guys!!

    val

  3. Pingback: 2010 in review « The Home Front

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