It was a typical Monday morning at my customer service job. Call after call came in, many of the callers angry and ready to take it out on whoever was on the other end of the line. I sat at my cubicle, the voices coming out of my headset saying things like, “This is the fifth time I’ve called about this, and you people still haven’t done anything?” (When people start speaking in italics, you know you’re in trouble.) I also had someone hang up on me, twice. Okay, it wasn’t a typical Monday morning after all. Things aren’t usually that bad.
Several years of customer service work has taught me that some people are going to be angry no matter what I do. Never mind the fact that I hadn’t caused their problem, and in fact hadn’t even known what their problem was until they told me. Never mind my best efforts to be polite, stay positive, and focus on solutions. Sometimes people just want to rant, or place blame on anyone they can find, or hang up on you.
After several uncannily bad calls, I was in a mood myself. I wanted to let off some steam. It was only natural, after all. No one would blame me for that; at my workplace, we love to trade horror stories, especially on a Monday.
I swiveled my swivel chair around to vent my frustrations to the person who sits behind me, ready to tell her all I’d gone through. But she wasn’t at her desk. I bit my tongue on my rant and in that moment of semi-silence, this thought popped into my head:
Isn’t it better to suffer for doing good than for doing evil?
Uh oh. My morning Bible reading was relating a little too well to my life. Again.
Just hours before, I’d read that passage in 1 Peter about suffering for doing good. But wait, that part of the letter was about the addressees being persecuted for their faith by the authorities, right? Surely to apply it to myself here would be to take it out of context. Besides, what would be the harm in pointing out how nasty they were?
With our tongues we praise God, and then we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s image. Brothers and sisters, this should not be.
Okay, James, fine, I thought to myself. It was going to feel so good to rant about what jerks those people were to me. But what about their harsh speech towards me? They started it!
Why don’t you take the plank out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye?
I sighed and hung my head. I really hate it when this happens, when I actually have to try to apply what I’m reading. It’s so much easier when I can read the text as merely academic, referring to some other people in some other time. I hate when my own mind turns on me like this.
But then, later, I’m always glad I listened.
My phone was ringing again. I took a deep breath and turned around to answer it.
“Hello, my name is Rachel, how can I help you today?”
“I just need to know where my order is, please,” said the voice on the other end.
“Okay,” I said gamely. Twenty-something Jesus probably got bossed around by his carpentry clients all the time. We could get through Monday together.
Maybe I wouldn’t even have to hit up the vending machine for chocolate.