The beautiful couple who took the beach chair from my little girl, I’m supposed to love them like God does: love EVERYONE—even them. They looked like Barbie and Ken sitting on the side of the kiddie pool, tan and lithe and sculpted. They were the most beautiful people at the pool, if anyone was judging by fitness ability or BMI.
As my son splashed at my feet, my daughter left the pool and ran back to the beach chair to get her goggles. I watched her from yards away. In my line of sight, I saw the blonde Barbie woman tap her husband. In a flash, Ken dashed up to my daughter and said something to her. I saw my daughter gather up all our stuff as Ken proceeded to place a T-shirt on our chair.
Something in me snapped and I grabbed my son by the arm so quickly he didn’t know what happened. We flew to her side. I asked Ken, “What is going on, sir?” He insisted the chair was theirs and the wind had blown their T-shirt off of it. This was one of those days at the pool where every family gets one chair for their stuff. I told him the chair had been open. He told me it hadn’t been.
In that moment, I had a choice, to let him have the chair or let him have a piece of my mind. A kind lady behind us heard the whole thing. “We’re leaving,” she said. “You can have our chair.” With thanks and a big dose of Holy Spirit restraint, I laid our stuff down on the reclined lounge while Ken returned to a very satisfied Barbie.
As these encounters go, I ran into Barbie the rest of the day at the pool. Their family sat directly in front of us on three chairs. This burned me up inside and I told God so. I told Him it was unfair and they had treated my daughter rudely, and it felt better to judge them.
Shouldn’t someone call them out on their rudeness? I replayed the scenario and how I would have won the chair back with a witty retort. I would have done this all with my red cape flying and the people around me cheering me on, like a sitcom. God was having none of that.
I had a choice, to let him have the chair or let him have a piece of my mind.
Barbie and Ken sat with their kids 10 feet in front us. I wondered what would have happened if I had taken a beach chair from their kid.
The kids and I splashed in the lazy river and left the beautiful people to their fun, but I couldn’t shake the feeling my encounter with them wasn’t over.
It took me 36 months to forgive Barbie and Ken, for being beautiful and taking my beach chair.
We live in a part of the metro area reputed for wealth and snobbery and materialism. I wanted to peg these labels on them. I wanted to put them in a category and write them off.
God loves people, even the beautiful ones, even the high and mighty ones. Even the ones who say rude things or judge us or take a beach chair from us.
I know this but doing it feels like sitting on a tac. Because they are so put together, I’m a little jealous of their beauty. They seem so perfect on the outside. This augments the conflict we had, the rightness and justification I want to feel. I do feel justified for a while.
As we leave the pool that day, I stop in the ladies’ room. Barbie is changing her baby’s diaper on a bench. This beautiful mother is irritated and struggling. Her voice, on edge, tries to sound kind, but I’m a mom and I talk to my kids like that too. I try to be kind and loving. But sometimes underneath the layers, there’s no patience left.
I leave the restroom and realize she is just like me and any other frustrated parent, in need of compassion. In need of grace. The extreme grace that covers our control and our selfishness and washes it away like the giant bucket of water above the kiddie slide when we confess it to God.
Sometimes underneath the layers, there’s no patience left.
My kids and I walk to the parking lot and I see Barbie and Ken climb into their Land Rover. Even if I was right about their wealth or status, the compassion wells up in me—compassion for parents who seem to have it all together on the outside but have problems with people and their kids, just like me. I push it down and drive home.
Love doesn’t give up without a fight. Love chooses to give away and forgive and offer whatever we have to anyone who asks or takes.
I think about them whenever we go to the pool. I think about them three years later when some teen girls’ move our stuff off of a chair at the same pool on a crowded day. I think about how hard it is to love me. I recall how it took me 36 months to forgive Barbie and Ken, for being beautiful and taking my beach chair. How many times I have wanted to be right. How that day I wanted to be right. How I wanted to justify myself in front of them, to one up them with my words and fight it out.
As I tell the teens to ask before they move our stuff and to show a little courtesy, I feel the compassion well up again—the compassion that says, let them have it. Put your towels and bag on the grass and let them have the chair. Love doesn’t give up without a fight. Love chooses to give away and forgive and offer whatever we have to anyone who asks or takes. This is how God loves all of us—beautiful, unsightly, wealthy, poor, saint, and sinner—-nonsensical, whimsical, upside-down turning the world over with abounding love.
I have made a pact with myself to always give up my chair, offer it up freely. Everything in me will fight it, but love never makes sense—that’s what makes it love.
Did you miss the other 2 posts in the SKIN series?