“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27 NLT
My husband and I decided to get out of town to the ocean for a few days to celebrate our anniversary in Seaside, OR.
We did a bit of research prior to leaving to see what social restrictions were in place so we could be prepared. I have a disability that is exacerbated by mask wearing, to the point it can case me to fall down and lose my ability to determine where I am in space. Therefore, I rarely go into establishments that require masks, as they pose a significant risk to my physical safety.
We arrived a bit before checkin, so we decided to shop at the outlet mall when we got into town. We arrived at the first store. Upon entering, I had the required mask on, but it was sitting slightly below my nose, so I could breathe. As soon as I entered, I was told by a sales associate to pull my mask over my nose. I immediately complied and mentioned I was struggling to breathe, hoping he might have a little compassion. Nope. He said they’re required to be worn over the mouth and nose while in the store.
I walked around the store as he proceeded to follow me as I perused the offerings. I wandered over to where my husband was looking and chatted with him, and as I did, my mask proceeded to slip down- which it does anytime I talk with it on. The associate immediately asked me to pull up my mask. I apologized and did so.
I wandered back over to the women’s section, still being followed, and unfortunately, as I was still looking around- and at this time both my husband and myself had clothes we intended to purchase in our arms, my mask slipped to the end of my nose. He immediately called me on it, I apologized again, and said that it was because I was talking and it slips down, which it was doing as I was speaking, and it wasn’t intentional, as was evident. He said he’d already asked me twice to pull it up, and I replied that I immediately complied. He then offered me a store mask that would fit better and wouldn’t fall down my nose. I readily agreed to switch out my mask for the proffered one and waited for him to get it for me.
At this point, he hadn’t moved to go get it, and a customer in the store came up, yelled out “It’s people like you who are the problem with this world. You’re a murderer and you need to leave the store! You can’t even keep a simple mask on your face.”
I was shocked and appalled. Who was this man and what business was it of his? I hadn’t even come anywhere near him. I replied that it was none of his concern, please stop yelling at me, and to mind his own business.
The store associate still hadn’t gone to get the mask he’d offered and then after the customer lit into me reiterated how he’d already asked me twice to pull up my mask. I responded that I readily agreed to wear the mask he offered, I was just waiting for it, and that I immediately pulled up my mask as soon as he said anything, so I had complied with his requests. What was the issue other than the customer interrupting when it was none of his concern.
At this time, a second sales associate came over to me and said “he asked you twice to pull up your mask, and you still aren’t so you need to leave the store.” The customer then decided to pile on again and yelled “people like you are killing others and shouldn’t be out here. Stay home! We’re in the middle of a pandemic!”
My husband and I put the clothing on the closest table and walked out. I immediately began to cry. Within a short period of time my crying turned to sobbing. I had tried. I wasn’t trying to be a problem. I had pulled the mask up several times without being asked. We had barely started our week at the ocean and it was already ruined. Or it could have been if I let it.
I tried to call my sister (one of my best friends), who was also at the ocean with her family and our parents, but I was unable to reach her. I wanted to post in my private group of friends for some moral support and ask them to pray for me, but to get the story out seemed so exhausting at that time. I literally wanted to go home. We checked into the hotel and I went straight to the bathroom, continued my crying jag on the toilet seat and prayed instead. I felt homesick and couldn’t fathom how I was going to make it through the week like this. But God whispered to me this was between me and Him, and we would work it out together. I prayed for Him to work in my heart, help me forgive, not hold a grudge, not feel panic at either wearing a mask or going shopping, and to want to stay and have a good attitude while I was at it.
My sister texted me back shortly after we checked in, I gave her the condensed version, and she said we’d write a Yelp review, but in the meantime, we should come over to their place for dinner. That’s exactly what I needed to pull myself together- family time.
We had a wonderful dinner, played some games, I pulled out of my funk, and God whispered to me it was going to be okay. And it was. But as I chatted with my sister and my mom at dinner, I confessed that it was purely the grace of God that I didn’t yell, I didn’t cuss at them, and I didn’t call them names. Honestly, I’m convinced if you could have seen me in the spirit, you would have seen duct tape over my mouth and chains restraining my arms- I kid you not! It was pure, unadulterated Holy Spirit restraint. I am so thankful for it, but I also marvel at it because I was so upset and angry.
When I told my sister about my miraculous restraint, she mentioned what her eldest daughter had said about it: “don’t cast your pearls before swine.” Wow, so true. We have been given such a precious gift and it’s not worth losing our peace to people who hold no value in the kingdom of God. I had texted my sister earlier when we were making our dinner plans that I was already upset because I was crying, as they weren’t worth my peace.
God was working in me to first of all show me that if we are submitted to Him, we can have restraint in the Holy Spirit. What a wonderful thing, and how wonderful to not have to ask forgiveness for doing something stupid to people who wouldn’t even recognize it as sin, but would automatically lump me in with the rest of the world! Secondly, He wanted me to rely on Him and His grace and peace alone to get through. I’m certain if I had reached out to my community and shared my story, it would have been fuel for a fire I was trying to quench, not build. I needed to calm down, find peace, not be angry and justified in my stance. I needed to let God be my justification.
We have a choice in this hour. Will we respond or will we react? Will we be salt and light or will we behave like the world and call names and cuss? Will we keep our peace or will we lose it?
Lord, help us not to waste what is holy on the unholy. Help us to keep what You’ve given us as sacred and precious, and treat it as such, not squander it. In this hour, it’s a challenge to be salt and light when there are so many examples of worldly behavior, but let us be reminded that we are in this world, not of it and we have been given a gift that the world does not have access to- the Holy Spirit, who will comfort, protect, battle for and befriend us. Thank You, Lord, that we are not alone, that we are more than conquerors through Christ Jesus and that even if we stumble, there is grace and forgiveness, we only need ask. We ask You to be strong on our behalf so we can bring the Good News of the gospel to our neighborhood and cities.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill us up, bring refreshing and fire and cause us to burn with a holy fervor for You. Thank You that in You, we have nothing to fear, no reason to be afraid, and no need to panic.
We thank You for Your grace and strength in this time and we ask that You equip us for every good work You have called us to.
In Jesus’ Name we pray, amen.
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
John 14:27 NKJV
Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.
Matthew 7:6 NKJV
*By Juli Martnez, Contributing Writer
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