A few posts ago I mentioned that I have a habit of getting involved in disputes with strangers. I am fully aware of this and it’s something that I kinda sorta maybe sometimes try not to do. But let me assure you, the fight I got into at the Christmas Eve church service I went to with my fiance’s family was not my fault.
The service wasn’t due to start for another 45 minutes and the church was already pretty packed. I sat in a pew with my in-laws and saved one seat next to me for Isaac who was parking the car. A woman, I’ll call her Scrooge, with three children shoved her kids into the same pew as us and when she told her kids to scoot all the way down next to me, I politely told her that the spot next to me was saved for my fiance. Scrooge snapped. She stood up at the end of the row and said “oh great!!!! I’ll just stand! I don’t need to sit, no definitely not, I’ll just stand here the whole time!” I said “ma’am there is plenty of room for you, your kids, and my fiance, I’m just telling you the spot right next to me is for him.” Scrooge was not pleased, she scoffed and stayed standing at the end of the pew.
I decided to ignore her, she wasn’t worth my time. That was until I heard Scrooge telling the woman behind us “oh no no no I can’t sit because her fiance needs to sit there, her fiance needs that seat.” She drew out the word “fiance” in a grotesque manner, making it sound like I had made a big scene about my beloved fiance HAVING to be next to me at all times. Still, I ignored her and tried to focus on the Christmas music and the word search my father-in-law was working on.
But when Scrooge continued trash talking me to the woman right behind me, I couldn’t bite my tongue any longer. “I don’t understand why she thinks she can save seats, that is NOT allowed” Scrooge ranted. When people are talking crap and referring to me as “she” when I’m clearly within earshot, it really sets me off. I leaned towards Scrooge and (unfortunately) yelled across her children “I don’t get what your deal is, I’m allowed to save ONE SEAT for my fiance while he is on his way into the church, okay???”
Scrooge yelled back “hey, calm down there’s no need for you to get upset. You just need to calm down.” Scrooge then sat down next to her kids and said “okay everybody scoot REALLY tight together, everyone squish in. We need to give her and her fiance enough room.” There she went again with her dang drawn out tone when she said the word “fiance.” There was now about 4 feet between me and her kid, obviously way more than enough room for Isaac. I told the kid that he could scoot closer to me but Scrooge said “no no no everyone scoot even further, give her enough room.” I may have been sitting in church, but I sure had a lot of nasty words racing through my brain at that point.
Isaac arrived at the church a few minutes later and I filled him in on what had happened. He was astonished and disgusted, too. Like I had told Scrooge before, all of us could comfortably sit in the pew so her hysterics and insults were completely unwarranted.
I was angry. Really, really angry. This cold-hearted woman had ruined my Christmas Eve service, I felt. Wasn’t this a time when we were supposed to love others and spread Christmas cheer? I know that just because someone is religious doesn’t mean he or she is free from bad moments/days/weeks/years, but I felt extremely saddened by her display. Of all places to be treated so poorly, a church Christmas Eve service?! She didn’t just make one rude comment, she went on and on for about 10 minutes. I started silently praying that God would lift some of the anger and bitterness from my heart. It felt wrong to be singing happy Christmas carols while my face was still red and my hands still shaking from anger. I also secretly wished that Scrooge would get explosive diarrhea during “O Holy Night” and not have enough time to make it to the restroom.
My anger stuck around though and I would have gotten up and left if I hadn’t been there with Isaac’s whole family.
I’m glad I didn’t though. Because then I wouldn’t have had time to receive this note that she passed down the pew to me halfway through the service:
My hardened heart immediately softened. Yes, she was a nasty woman to me for no reason but I honestly and truly accepted her apology. I even resisted the urge to write “the word is spelled supposed not suppose” and hand it back to her. I looked at her and mouthed the words “thank you.”
Maybe she felt convicted because my fiance who sat next to one of her children helped him out during the service with his food, picked up his dropped papers, and was the sweetheart he always is. Maybe she felt bad because she realized that the rest of our family was sitting in a different part of the church than us. Instead of saving our whole pew for them, we offered her and her children the seats because our family hadn’t arrived yet. Maybe God answered my silent prayer and made her heart heavy with guilt and regret. He could have answered the explosive diarrhea wish, but I guess this way worked out best for everybody.
Whatever her reason for her feeling convicted, I was grateful. It allowed me to drop my anger and focus again on the service, the reason I was at church in the first place. It was also a good reminder to me that a simple apology can mean so much and heal wounds in unimaginable ways. At one point I was ready to crawl across Scrooge’s children and beat the crap of out her. All it took was a simple “I’m sorry” note scribbled on the back of a church program (the irony does not escape me) and I felt at peace again.
While Scrooge and I’s conflict was minimal compared to the struggles and battles that many people are dealing with, why not take the humble road and apologize to someone you may have wronged whether it was 2 days ago or 10 years ago? It may bring you more peace of mind than you can imagine. I am grateful for the reminder of the power of apologies and forgiveness in this Christmas season.