Sal, part 2

A few weeks ago, I wrote about “Sal, my no so pal” – the angry, bitter male customer who calls and says awful things to myself and my coworkers in the midst of his complaints. It’s been a while since I heard from him but he called the other day – in fact, he called two days in a row. And, surprisingly, he was quite civil – at least for him.

When he called the first day, he had a long list of complaints, but, as per his m.o., he had to level an insult at me first. The first thing out of his mouth after I said my greeting was: “I’ve talked to you before and talking to you gives me heartburn. Talking to anyone in your company gives me heartburn.” This time, I didn’t react to his bait. No sarcasm and snide remark back to him, just silence. After an awkward moment of nothing, he launched into his mostly frivolous complaints. The conversation went well – professionalism on my part; restrained anger on his. He had no racist comments, no nasty insults (just a few ‘mild’ ones) and very little cursing. 8 or 9 minutes later when he had disconnected I realized something was different.

Was it him or was it me? Will this new truce between us be a one-time occurrence or will it continue on? Why was he so nice – well, nice for him? And why was I so non-reactive to his issues and anger? Time was – just a few weeks ago – when he could reduce me to cursing, frustration and tears.

Based only upon my telephone experience with him on this day, Sal remains full of anger, bitterness, hurt, and above all, fear. He still believes he’s right and the whole world is wrong; that the world will bow down to what he wants and when it doesn’t he lashes out; and he seems to have no positivity in him at all. Has he changed? Will he change? That remains for God to sort out and me to probably never know.

What has changed is me – and praying for the spiteful man has helped change me. I say ‘spiteful’ not as a slur or insult but as an interpretation of his actions toward me. I’ve learned to pray for him even though he tells me I’m worthless. I pray for him because I don’t see him as a mean person anymore. I see him as a deeply injured child of the same God I worship, serve, and love. I am trying to see Sal as God sees him – hurt, in pain, full of fear – trying to defend himself the only way he knows – through anger and rage.

Only God is able to break through Sal’s rock-hard wall that surrounds his heart. Such deeply ingrained hurt cannot be healed by any means other than the Spirit of God. Drugs (prescription or illegal), therapy, incarceration or alcohol are all just band-aids on a huge gaping, smelly, rotten, foul wound.

While I am a proponent of therapy and some prescription drugs, my own rotten wounds didn’t fully begin to heal until I turned to God. Only God has been able to reach into my soul and heal injuries 30 – 40 – even 50 years old. I have more healing to be done – and it will be, in time, on God’s time.

So for now, I will continue to pray for Sal because as long as he walks upon this earth there is still time – for hope, for redemption, for healing, for love.

Render unto Caesar

When I checked my mail – I saw the envelope from the IRS – I knew what it was – and was reluctant to open it.

I have a student debt from 20 years ago that I have neglected. Money is so tight that there is no room in the budget for this debt and thus I rarely pay on it.

Each year when I submit my 1040EZ I know the U.S. government “kindly” takes my often substantial refund and applies it toward that debt.

When I finally open the letter and read that all the money went to the debt (as I knew it would) I was overwhelmed with disappointment and sorrow. This is the first year I have felt this way. The first year I was PO’d. Then I accepted it as a reality I didn’t like. But this year, the feeling of disappointment went deep within and surprised me.

I could have used that money – I needed that money – and even as tears streamed down my cheeks, these words came to mind:

“Render unto Caesar what is Caesars’ and unto God what is God’s.”

As a citizen of this country I am obliged to pay taxes and such – unfair that may seem to me – but if I am to serve God, then I must do it.

As I thought about all the necessary things I could do with that money I realized that my real needs are provided for each week – food, gas, rent, electricity—

And I thanked God for them – that He loved and cared for me –

And even though the things I determined to be necessary, aren’t true needs.

God has the bigger picture – He sees the forest whereas I can only see the trees that surround me.

A couple of days later and the disappointment I felt has mostly been swept away. But my love for God has not.

I appreciated the reminder that God cares for and provides my every true need. And I thanked Him for the reminder.

However, I also reminded Him that providing a few of my wants would be nice as well.

Before I call

Before I call, God will answer
And while I am still speaking, God will hear.

Isaiah 65:24 as interpreted by Sabina after the NKJV

For my devotions I read from the Upper Room each day. The other morning, I read the following devotional (by D. Trimm) and gained new insight into God’s care for me. It so moved me I wanted to share it.

“My mind was reviewing the chores I wanted to do before my baby woke up from her nap. I knew that when she woke up, the diaper would need to be changed and she would want to be fed. The only way she could tell me about her needs would begin with restlessness and progress to crying.

“I was watching the time as I worked, intently listening for her to stir. When that happened, I would hurry to her room before her cries progressed to wailing. After changing her diaper, I would hold and feed her. I loved my baby and would do anything for her. But while blissfully sleeping, my daughter was in her own world – unaware of my presence.

“As I continued my work, I realized how often I am like my daughter – living in my own little world until what I consider a crisis happens. Then I become frantic and begin wailing to God about my needs and concerns. Yet God’s ear is already attuned to our needs. God is ready to assist us, whatever the problem, even before we call.

“Dear God, thank You for Your love that tunes in to our needs even before we know what they are.”