Inconvenient love: A lesson from a movie theater

July 21, 2009 | 52 comments

Last week I took our Kidsave child Rita and the Colombian chaperone Maria to see a free morning showing of the movie Kit Kittredge that one of the local theaters was offering. Rita put on one of her favorite new outfits, and she and the chaperone were excited about this special treat.

The theater got dark just as we walked in, making it difficult to find a place where we could all sit together in the crowded theater (which was especially important since neither Maria nor Rita speak English and wanted to be able to ask me questions if needed). Maria slipped into a row where there were a group of seats together in the middle, but by the time we all got there we realized that we were one seat short. Luckily there were a couple empty seats at the end of the aisle, so I leaned over and apologetically asked a lady sitting with her child if they’d mind scooting over one seat so that we could all sit together.

Based on her reaction, for a moment I thought she must have misheard me, thinking that I’d asked if I could borrow her credit card to buy extra-large popcorns and drinks for the entire theater. With a loud sigh she shoved her purse over to the seat beside her, and somehow managed to make the trip from her current seat to the one next to it look like a journey equivalent to summiting Everest. “I won’t be able to see the movie now!” she grumbled, pointing out the height difference of the person in front of her new seat (which didn’t look like that big of a deal to me). I immediately made a sincere offer to just sit somewhere else so that she could have her original seat, but she declined, the voyage of eleven inches being too arduous to repeat again.

I looked up at Rita and Maria, who were fingering their hair self-consciously. Rita has a particularly tender heart and seemed worried about whether we should sit there or not. “I am so sorry!” Maria said in Spanish. She felt terrible, offering to try to find another place to sit. The opening credits were starting, so I told her not to worry about it and we all took our seats.

After the movie got started, I had to laugh when I realized that one of its big themes was showing kindness to others. At one point toward the end, when Kit and her friends saved a group of people from trouble that included an orphaned child, I looked over to see the lady watching the scene with rapt attention, even dabbing at a tear at the corner of her eye.

The irony was too rich: she’d just bristled at helping an orphaned child have a special day at the movies so that she could better enjoy the movie about helping orphaned children.

I have to tell you, I was really enjoying the warm glow of righteous indignation there for a while, stopping just short of tattling to God, “Did you SEE what she just did?! I am a TOTAL SAINT compared to that woman!” And then this plank in my eye started bothering me, taking all the fun out of judging the woman sitting next to me.

The more I thought about her actions, the more familiar they began to seem; eventually I realized that what was most likely at the root of her actions is something I’ve struggled with for a long time now: a great desire to help others, with the unspoken restriction that the helping be done on my terms.

I’m sure that every one of us in the theater that day — including the seat lady — were filled with genuine warmth at the scenes of Kit and her friends giving a hand to women, children and homeless people in need. I’m sure that all of us — again including the seat lady — have done plenty of things in our lives to help others such as volunteer work, giving money to the homeless, etc.

But recently I’ve started to notice a line in the sand that demarcates the territory of the saints, where “helping others” turns into “truly showing the love of Christ to the world, ” and it’s a line that is painful to cross. On one side of the line is a sincere willingness to show love to others; on the other side is a sincere willingness to show love to others even when it’s unexpected, inconvenient and we get nothing in return. I’m sure the lady from the movies believes that it’s important to be kind to others…just not when it involves unexpectedly sitting in a seat that she doesn’t like. Maybe I don’t have strong opinions about where I sit in movie theaters, but how often do I put up my own boundaries about the exact circumstances under which I’ll show love? I am happy to Christ to the world…as long as I’m not in a hurry, cleaning up cat vomit, getting insulted by relatives, dealing with surly inanimate objects, arguing with atheists, etc. The list goes on (and on, and on…)

Now that I’ve been a Christian for a few years I’ve been thinking a lot about how to get to a deeper level of conversion, trying to figure out what exactly it looks like when a person fully, unconditionally surrenders her life to God. I don’t yet have the complete answer, but I’m starting to think that it begins with simply learning to show love when it’s most inconvenient.

photo by JanneM

52 Comments

  1. Rachelle, Mike, and David

    I have been reading up on your blog since I met you at the Kidsave event last weekend, and I cannot tell you what a beautiful story you have to tell, how Christ came into your life and changed you from the inside out. Thank you for your brutal honesty and for laying your heart bare in your blog. I have added you to my daily prayers, especially regarding your experience with "Rita" and for your guidance as to where God may be leading concerning her future. I have been blogging our Kidsave experience, too, for the last year!

    Rachelle

  2. Kris Livovich

    I completely agree on the "convenience" factor. We spent quite a few years serving at a soup kitchen, doing various works that would brand us as naive and foolish. Through various circumstances we have not been doing that work for a couple of years, we have been struggling as a couple with some hurts and heartaches. But oh, how I miss being inconvenieced for Christ. Those were some of my happiest most joy-filled days.

    I truly appreciate the posts you write for this blog. More often than not, you speak to what I am thinking and feeling, but am unable to give coherent voice to. Thank you.

    And I think you are doing a fine job for Rita. No need to get all "fancy". Being welcomed, loved, and made part of a family will be a wonderful memory for her. (and for you!)

  3. Elena

    Funny, I have been thinking about this theme a lot lately. I find that whenever I feel particularly chuffed about performing some good work on my own terms it is always followed up by some need for assistance/love etc. that inconveniences me and that I inevitably fail at. Through all of this I have begun to realise that my sincere prayer (at least that which is demonstrated by my actions) is something like, "Lord, please make me a Saint, just not yet." Sound familiar?

  4. KimP

    Again, Jen, a timely post, and I appreciate it. As usual, one does not have to go to Africa to help those in need – there are folks in need -spiritual need – living right next door to you, or in the next cubicle over at the office. But these are the people that "inconvenience" me the most, so I am blind to their needs and how to help them. I fail them every single day. I am impatient with them. I ask how they are and then I barely listen. My only saving grace is that I can see my failings. I keep hoping that inch by inch I might improve. Thanks for the encouragement for the journey to sainthood. I'm remedial.

  5. Jen

    i just love your blog. You are so inspirational and insightful. Thank you!

  6. Anonymous

    How tall are you? "Didn't look like a big deal to me" doesn't sound very convincing. I am 5'2" and struggle with theaters where no matter where I choose to sit, the tallest person in the room is inexorably drawn to sit in front of me. It's maddening. I can really relate to this woman who, perhaps, for once, found a seat where there wasn't anyone tall in front of her, then got asked to move over! You're lucky she didn't break your arm. Consider the fact that she may have watched the entire movie with a corner of the screen blocked so that you three could be together.

  7. Thomas

    Awesome post. I loved the irony of the movie theater, but I loved even more how you tied it in with the whole convenience talk. It really made me think about how much more I could be doing to be a better Christian and live my life better.

    God Bless,

    Thomas

  8. Marian

    Oh so true. If God would only clearly label things for me– perhaps a little lighted sign that flashes? "TRIAL – This is a TRIAL. Get your game on." "SERVICE- Show love here." "WIDOW AHEAD." But he wants my heart fundamentally changed by following Him, not following lighted signs. Or perhaps He could schedule these things ahead of time with me? Oh, yes, that's right. It's about His Kingdom and purposes, not mine. I'm right there with you in s-l-o-w-l-y learning this, Jennifer.

  9. Mindyleigh

    Have you ever read "Mother Teresa ~ Come Be My Light?" I feel like you most likely have, but reading it recently was truly paradigm-shifting. I recommend it if you haven't already read it. It very much left me with the same awareness and longing as this event did for you. Actually, anything I read re: Mother Teresa leaves me with that feeling, but this book especially did.

  10. Megan@SortaCrunchy

    Jenn, this is unspeakably timely for me.

    I'll try to keep the details of this discreet, but essentially I've felt God calling me to love and serve someone in my neighborhood. At first, she received it graciously, but yesterday she responded in a way that was a little bit hurtful and I felt myself bristle. Later, I was kind of talking/praying/crying it over with the Lord (I mean, not a lot of crying, just some hurt feelings tears) when He very tenderly reminded me that loving people the way He loves is risky. And sometimes painful. And oftentimes messy.

    I needed that entire experience to jolt me into seeing exactly what you speak of here – that I am totally down with serving as long as my service is met with enthusiasm and gratitude. The first moment it is not, I'm ready to turn on my heel and walk away.

    Ugly stuff in this heart o' mine. Good thing – GLORY TO GOD, actually – that my ability to love and serve others is not limited to or defined by my own capability to love.

  11. Sandy

    First of all, absolutely loved Marian's comment. Secondly, I'm starting to think that it isn't love until it is inconvenient. I'm not sure I have truly loved until there is some sacrifice involved. God doesn't just have loving actions toward us, He is love. To be nice is one thing, to have love as my nature is something else. If love were my nature, I would be loving without regard to the situation. I have a very long way to go.

  12. Elizabeth Mahlou

    I recommend reading Richard Rohr's book, Grace in Action. He discusses at length the concept of helping on our own terms.

  13. Jane D.

    Very nicely expressed Jennifer – a good thought to ponder on through my day. Thank you x.

  14. Kathryn

    I completely agree with this and love how eloquently you put it! Thanks for sharing this story, it has touched me on a very deep level!

  15. Dawn Farias

    Yes, about the convenience part. It's something that has to be "practiced" and when I make even the smallest gain, even for one moment in one day, I am so thankful to God for that.

  16. Anonymous

    Something to think about, as always!

    Laurie

  17. Anonymous

    I too am 5'2" and am plagued by the tall guy or big-haired gal sitting in front of me (thank you Lord for the new stadium-seating theatres!) So, yes, it probably was a big thing for her to move… I'm not saying that she shouldn't have, just that it was an inconvenience.
    I absolutely appreciate the message of your post though. Our character shows not with how we act when we are "prepared," but how we act when we're caught off guard…when we're tired, hungry, or upset. Also, it's not fair: we need to make allowances for others, while simultaneously trying to not be that same sort of burden to someone else… ie, we cannot go crashing through life and burdening others, knowing they "shouldn't mind" if they're a Christian.
    Marie

  18. deanna

    Those darn planks are always around aren't they. I do think, though, that ability to discern our planks is what leads us to becoming a stronger witness for Christ and then being better able to serve others.

  19. coffeemom

    excellent excellent. This is also SO timely for me (because, as usual, it's all about me). This same urge/realization is the precise thing I am struggling w/ now as we adjust to a new teen in our home and all the strange awkwardness that it entails. The bottom line is I'm struggling because I want to do this on MY terms, MY way, in MY time. And I can't. Ouch. Long way to go for holy……. Great great post!
    M

  20. Luke

    Such a good insight. May we be more like Christ, who had compassion on people even if He was doing something else.

    I don't remember where it was that I heard this, but they did a study where they took Seminary students, had them prepare a message about the Good Samaritan, and then had a person pretend to be moaning in pain in the bushes along the path to where the student was to give his presentation. The variable was how much of a hurry the student thought he was in. If he had 5 minutes or so, he'd stop. If he felt he was late, he wouldn't.

    That was eye opening for me… and I've noticed that I won't turn around to see if I could help with a car pulled over to the side of the road if I'm running late to church. …same thing… and definitely an area of growth.

    ~Luke

  21. Amy

    I'm sure the lady from the movies believes that it's important to be kind to others…just not when it involves unexpectedly sitting in a seat that she doesn't like.

    At first I was getting annoyed by this post. Then when the tone changed and you started talking about the plank in your own eye, I felt better about where you were going. Then it went south again. You're still judging this woman. Granted, you're including yourself in the judgement you're meting out (which is probably more than most would do), but it still leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth.

    I'm not sure how else you could have approached this post, and for the most part I think your posts are usually right on target, but I think that in this case there could have been a better way.

    When I'm at my best (unfortunately, that isn't always), and someone is rude to me, I try to see from their point of view. Maybe other people wanting to "push her aside" to get their needs met is a common theme in this woman's life, and this was one of those "last straw" moments (even though that was not your intention, she might have seen it that way). Perhaps earlier in the day, she found out someone close to her was dying of cancer. Perhaps her husband snapped at her as he left the house this morning. Perhaps she suffers from fibromyalgia or some painful but invisible illness. These aren't so much excuses for her behavior as much as they are explanations.

    Or perhaps, like a lot of people, she had no idea what sort of a pickle you were in with your movie guests, and didn't understand why you needed to sit together. Perhaps she thought you were being rude asking her to move seats, when she had gotten to the movie in plenty of time to get a seat, and you were late. Perhaps she is kind when it's inconvenient all the time, but on this day she wasn't. There is no way for you to know.

    Using this same method with my reaction to your post, perhaps you were under time constraints when you wrote this post, and if you had had more time, would have found a way to approach it differently. Or perhaps you're exhausted trying to raise a young family, trying to be a good Christian, trying to write a book and have a blog and make radio appearances and be a friend, wife, daughter, being a Kidsave parent. Perhaps you were cleaning up cat puke, had just gotten insulted by relatives, etc. Or perhaps this is exactly the way you wanted it to come across.

    I honestly don't see how you do as well as you do with all you have on your plate. I can't see inside your heart, so I can't possibly be sure of anything about you. But I can try to be understanding about your shortcomings (real or imagined, because obviously a lot of people really "got" this post, and I'm sure you'll get more "yay"s than "boo"s, so perhaps my reaction is an error of perception). And perhaps, for me, the lesson is being more understanding, after all.

    "I desire mercy, not sacrifice."

  22. mrsdarwin

    To the Anons,

    I was not only at the movie, I was in the row in front of Jennifer and heard the whole exchange. The lady's view wasn't blocked at all; she just didn't feel like moving over. If she'd cared to scoot over one more seat, she could have sat in front of a child.

  23. Christine

    Ugh, I can't believe your post riled me up so much. I wouldn't have moved. Equating your bad manners & thoughtlessness to the other woman's lapse of loving strangers at an inconvenient moment is funny. There is movie theater etiquette, and you broke the rules. That you expected her to just conveniently scoot down a seat and was shocked at her displeasure disappoints me. Once the lights are off, the movie's started, and you come in late – you take what you can get! If it was so important that you sit together, arrive early. Of course a free movie would be packed in the summer…

    There are countless opportunities for us to love each other each and every day especially in the mundane. Where was your love for others when you showed up late, became a distraction, and made everyone feel awkward? Where was your 'sincere willingness' to understand/appreciate/respect the effort the lady & her child made to get there on time. Maybe it was a special day for them too.

    She was not denying you neighborly love by her actions. You asked for a favor/kindness & she complied, albeit unhappily. I don't equate complete surrender to Christ demanding me to comply with every request I receive. Everyone does has different boundaries. How I express the love of Christ inside me will be different than you do – if for no other reason, we can be so oblivious to the needs around us. Does every perceived injustice have to reflect on our ability to surrender? Aren't there times when just plain old common courtesy prevails?

    My only point is that this nitty gritty works both ways. The line in the sand I draw is Godliness/selfishness. In this movie theater slice of life, both sides are clearly in the selfish zone. Am I selfish to want to keep my seat? easily. Are you selfish for wanting me to move in order to sit with friends? certainly. Hmm, since God probably wouldn't have been wasting his time watching a movie, I think we're on our own here. Maybe for penance we can say the Act of Contrition 5 times with feeling and help a stranger today. Deal?

  24. Anonymous

    I was wondering about the language aspect of your Kidsave experience – do you speak fluent Spanish?

  25. SusanE

    I once had a Snoopy poster that said, "I love mankind. It's people I can't stand."

  26. Ute

    There is some obvious irony in this, but like you, Jennifer, I assume this woman would have gladly given up her seat if she had known Rita's story. And like you I have to put in her favor that it IS hard to show love to others if it's not on your own terms.
    Lately I've been struggling with a similar realization. Unfortunately it's not enough to be WILLING to love and serve Christ in the people around is, we actually HAVE TO DO IT. Just like Jesus didn't just pick up the cross and then was magically beamed to Calvary to get going with his part in Salvation history; no, he had to walk the long way, with the cross on his shoulders, step by step and even fell on the way (but also got up again).
    I like Elena's statement "Lord, please make me a Saint, just not yet." Guess I'm there too.

  27. Emily a.k.a. Smoochagator

    Love this post! And yes, I often am willing to do what God wants me to do… so long as serving doesn't cost me too much (in time, money, or convenience). On the other side of the spectrum, I have in the past gone way past my comfort level in "helping" someone only to realize I was enabling them. It's a fine line, figuring out how much to give of yourself. Too much and you end up burning yourself out; too little and you miss the blessing of being in God's will. Thank goodness we don't have to get things right the first time (or the second, or the forty-fifth…)

    And as one anonymous commenter said, what may have seemed like not such a big deal to you may have been a very big deal to the woman you asked to move. Let's remember that our expectations of what someone "ought" to do aren't necessarily God's expectations.

  28. Ginkgo100

    I have heard a lot of people who are disillusioned by Christianity (whether atheists or others) say that when we do kind things, we do it for the reward, the warm glowy feeling. Movies are great because you can get that warm glowy feeling and not have to make any sacrifice at all! Just sit and do nothing in a comfy theater, eating popcorn.

    They have a point. Doing good deeds just for a warm glowy feeling—or for any other reward—is not really love.

    I think that's why I have a nagging feeling that I could do more for people. I know I could do much more to serve God. "But I volunteer in three different ministries at church!" I think. Yes, but I do all three of those for myself. They're all things I enjoy doing. Two of them are things I've wanted to do for years, and I jumped as soon as I got the chance. The third is mainly about socializing.

    Keep these posts coming. They help me* remember to look for ways to serve Christ, not just myself.

    *My own insecure moment: Should I say "me" as if this post is all about me, or "us" and assume that everyone else is spiritually weak like me? Ugh.

  29. suzy

    Wonderfully written!
    I think it's so true, what you say, loving even when it's inconvieniant is the hardest and truest kind of love.

  30. danielcox

    An excellent perspective on living out of love. "What's in it for me?" is the underlying question most of us ask ourselves when faced with the inconvenience of love.

    I'd rather get to a point where I don't even think about loving another…I just love.

    (sigh)

  31. Susan

    What an absolutely fabulous article. It really convicted me. Thanks for the great insights.

  32. Martha

    I have to say, it had occurred to me too, that perhaps the woman had some hidden illness/injury that made what seemed simple, really difficult. And I know that some here think Jen was really thoughtless initially. But, we don't know. And that helps the overall point. I mean, let's assume Jen was totally thoughtless and rude. (You know, we could assume Jen was late only because she stopped to heroically save a group of cuddly puppies whose truck had caught on fire.) But instead, let's just assume for a sec that she was totally thoughtless. Well, the seat lady was *still* called to respond with kindness, as we all are, even in the face of Jen's thoughtlessness. And Jen is called to act with kindness to her, although it seems to Jen like the woman is getting worked up over nothing. We don't know what's going on in the lives of everyone around us. We feel justified in our actions because we know all the things that led up to them and we are of course sympathetic to ourselves. When we are rude to others or thoughtless, we give ourselves all sorts of excuses – I was tired, I just sat down, I take care of other people all day long and I can't do one more thing… The trick is to do that with other people – give them the benefit of our excuses. For more than, you know, 5 minutes at a stretch. If I ever succeed at doing that continually, I will be very holy, I think. Also very old.

  33. Sheila

    Great post! Very convicting. Thanks.

  34. Marie

    Good compare/contrasts and points made, but let me ask you further — in this case and the case of the little boy running past you, what would the love you were supposed to have look like?

    I assumed in these posts that "I'm supposed to love these people, too" meant to be nice and talk to them in dulcet tones and, well, essentially let them treat you poorly.

    In reading again I realize that you never said any such thing. All you did was 'fess up to a lack of charity and decide you needed to change that. So, do you know yet how that would manifest itself?

  35. Julie

    Equating your bad manners & thoughtlessness to the other woman's lapse of loving strangers at an inconvenient moment is funny. There is movie theater etiquette, and you broke the rules. That you expected her to just conveniently scoot down a seat and was shocked at her displeasure disappoints me.

    Whoa, that's so harsh, I can barely comprehend it. To suggest that asking someone to scoot over at a movie theater is a massive breach of protocol is absolutely insane, in my opinion, and attitudes like that make me fear for our society.

    I mean really….if Christians can berate one another for such a small "offense," (which I don't think is offensive in the slightest) God help us out in the world where people are even more judgmental.

  36. pro life mom

    I absolutely LOVE the way you write…..your style and vocabulary always capture moments so well, that I feel you convey messages so deeply from your heart, and exactly on target!! It is always so easy to identify with your feelings, we have all been there in one way or another, different circumstances, but faced with the same type of decisions and themes on how to become closer to the Lord!! keep up the great work in your busy, amazing life!! You are making a HUGE difference in this world!! i thank God you do what you do!!

  37. Anonymous

    Interesting mixture of responses. What do you imagine your response would have been if the woman had said "I'm sorry, but no"?

  38. Chryseus

    As I see it, the point of Jennifer's post was not to spotlight or judge the reaction of the seat lady, but rather to illustrate how this one incident contributed to her understanding of how the scales of "conditional love and service" dropped from her eyes.

    This post is a tremendously beautiful and insightful sharing. I can connect with it on so many levels…I care for my 98 (almost 99) year old grandmother in my home. She has lived with me for many years, but only in the last 4 months has she been beset with heart problems and mostly bed-ridden. Over the years, I have fought with myself tooth and nail about living with, and now caring for her. Yet through this stubborn, strong-willed, at times very un-empathetic, little 98-year-old saint, God has slowly demolished my pride and my selfishness (not easy if you know me).

    So I understand how one can be dragged kicking and screaming into the arms of charity. It takes these beautiful (and unknowing) instruments of God, like the seat lady and my grandmother, to get us there. The point is He gives us the road away from ourselves…we just walk forward, no matter how awkwardly, we just walk.

  39. Joy

    You have hit me right between the eyes, where I keep getting smacked. This is exactly where I am — desiring to help others on my own terms and then turning around and snapping at my kids and grumping around my house because they need me to parent them (by correcting squabbling or soothing a bumped knee or getting a drink of water or teaching a new skill or whatever) when I want to do something different.

  40. Roxane B. Salonen

    Someone here mentioned Mother Teresa and I couldn't help but think of her as well. Having suffered the Dark Night of the Soul for much of her active life as a sister in Calcutta, her servitude was definitely inconvenient. She literally felt disconnected from God that duration, and yet, because of some glint of faith, she trusted in what could be and kept on doing the work she'd set out to do. It's heartbreaking to think of this disconnect, and yet, she continue onward anyway, offering so many souls hope in the process. So, I guess we're not always going to get the warm fuzzies from acting out our call of serving God. A bit daunting, but if we keep our gaze on the light, we, too, can do it. By the way, I loved that movie when I took my kids to it last summer. Great choice!

  41. Jane

    Hey Christine,
    Were you the lady at the movie that was asked to move?
    Just wondering.

  42. Emily a.k.a. Smoochagator

    As I've read the comments on this post – who knew this topic could get so heated? – I was reminded of something that happened to me a few years ago that relates to this story. My ex-husband and I were in line at the grocery store when the man ahead of us said, "Excuse me, but I was wondering if you'd be willing to pay for part of this lady's groceries?" He gestured to the woman standing at the head of the checkout line; all of her groceries had been rung up and she'd just been giving a total. "She has brain cancer and is on a fixed income."

    Now, my husband and I had recently left a very abusive church, so I was overly sensitive to Christian manipulation tactics, to say the least. Which is why I answered, immediately, and without apology or qualification, "NO."

    The guy looked at me like I was the scum of the earth and repeated in disbelief, "No?" My ex apologized (as he often did when he felt I was being too blunt or harsh, LOL), saying, "We really can't, we're kind of on a tight budget, too."

    I'm wondering if that man approached us because he thought we'd give him money because my ex was wearing a T-shirt that said something on it about Jesus. What offended me was that he can to me with an expectation that I owed this woman or him something. I don't. I owe it only to God to obey his wishes for my life.

    Putting aside the usual arguments about asking for handouts (putting people on the spot, I don't REALLY know if this person is homeless/has cancer/can't afford food, etc.) let's look at what this guy did not know about me: that I had been spiritually abused for five years, and pressured to do things I did not want to do and did feel called to do. Despite that abuse, I often gave joyfully to the poor when I could, so I was not (as an outsider might have assumed) a tight-fisted miser without an ounce of Christian charity. And my ex and I WERE on a tight budget, too, having had to take advantage of the charity of others. During the first year of our marriage, we received food assistance at holidays from two local charities, and most of our clothes came from the donation bags at the church we attended. The only way we were able to pay our (super tiny) mortgage that winter when my husband was out of work was because I'd received a settlement for a minor traffic accident shortly before our wedding. If we hadn't gotten that check for $1400… we may have ended up in foreclosure.

    All that to say… should this guy have judged me for refusing to give money to a sick old woman? Maybe he wouldn't have, if he'd really known me. Should I have been so angry at him, considering that he DIDN'T know me? Probably not, but as I said, I was waaaay too sensitive at the time.

    Let's remember, when encountering what we assume is the selfishness of the other person, that it's only OUR selfishness that we need to police. God can worry about the folks next to us in the movie theatre or ahead of us in the checkout line at Wal-Mart.

  43. Jen Raiche

    You are so right! Holiness truly is conquering those little inconveniences with love.

  44. Susan L

    Sheesh, Christine, they needed to all sit together because of the language barrier. I don't know why they showed up late but hey! Real Life happens. I don't want to show up late but sometimes I can't help it.

    Offer it up or something. I have five children and I'm inconvenienced ALL THE TIME. Life is short. Real short. Don't sweat the small stuff. I think God gives us even more graces when we do the very things we don't want to do with love.

    Now having said that, I have to go clean my kitchen. Ugh.

  45. Marie

    Wonderful mix of comments. Jen, I love your writing and your point was well taken.

    However, in our American culture when someone arrives late or just-in-the-nick-of-time, they should be prepared to divide up the group and sit wherever there is an empty seat. You may politely ask, but don't expect, others to move over for you. This includes stadiums and weddings, and other places where people can come early and choose a place to sit. If someone has claimed a spot, it is not impolite for them to say,"Sorry, I'd rather not move."

    Of course, you had a good reason for all 3 of you to sit together, but perhaps the grumpy lady wasn't aware of it, and merely thought that you were rude for not getting there in time.

    She may not have given you a Christian response, but culturally, she gave you a truthful response.

  46. Mim

    I wasnt there or anything but in my experience the lights go out for the previews and commercials which can sometimes take 10 or more minutes. So, dark movie theater does not equal *late* to me, just not early.

    I suffer from a nebulous invisible illness (fibro/cfids/neuropathy) which kept me bedbound for a year. I know that sometimes people are very judgemental when it looks like a person *could* just do something but says it's hard. But this doesn't look like an example. Sitting together with the young children one brings to a movie (especially with the language issue, but also generally, to share the experience, escort to bathrooms if needed, supervise, etc) generally trumps comfort considerations. It was also an honest mistake in the dark re number of seats–not like they found prime movie real estate and then booted off a loner, when there were other groups of 3 availible. sheesh, people!

  47. It Feels Like Chaos

    Such a wonderful post and great lesson. I am so guilty, too, of loving and serving when it is convenient for me and then sinking back into selfishness other times! Thank you for sharing your gift of insight and writing!

  48. Meredith@MerchantShips

    No introvert time, hence the reason I didn't post for 2 weeks straight. Here's to a moment of peace and quiet!

  49. Anonymous

    "….but I'm starting to think that it begins with simply learning to show love when it's most inconvenient."

    Brilliant and spot on. I so enjoy your writing.

  50. Michelle Marciniak

    When you write, oh my goodness, I always see myself in you. I hope you realize that by sharing personal things about yourself, you are helping so many of us in our own struggles. Thank you. I LOVE your blog.

  51. marybt

    See. This is why people should just do what I tell them. If everyone would fill up the rows in an orderly fashion instead of leaving one lone seat on the end or in the middle, then we wouldn't have these problems! Get it together, people! (LOL. Totally kidding. Sort of.)

    Jen, I just discovered your blog and I'm really enjoying it. I sent your prank call post to several people. Which is really saying something because I only send/forward about 3 things a year!

  52. Anonymous

    I do find it interesting that so many people (myself included) were touched by or can relate to the main message of the post, and yet so many people don't see that the very act of asking the woman to move was indeed a selfish act. That's okay, actually. We do selfish acts all the time; our very survival depends on them. We CAN'T feed all the homeless instead of ourselves, or only volunteer for charity and not work, or any other solely altruistic lifestyle choices. Well, maybe we can, but not while raising children and writing blogs. Which is fine. But it does surprise me how many people think Christine's reaction was an overreaction – not me. Does it matter what the other woman's reasons for not wanting to move were? Sure, maybe she should have reacted better, but for those that think it's no big deal to arrive late to a movie – that's selfish. That's assuming your priorities ("I don't mind missing the previews", "I don't mind moving after I've settled", etc.) are someone else's, or that yours should get more ranking because they're convenient to you. I hate sitting next to a stranger at a movie – I like to have at least a one-seat buffer. I love the previews, often more than the movie. Scoring a middle seat without someone sitting in front of me can make my week. Asking her to move is basically saying: your reasons for wanting to sit here are less important than mine. *I* am doing noble deeds; YOU are simply watching a movie. The movie lady doesn't need to have great tragedies or great excuses in her life for not wanting to move – Perhaps the call to service was for YOU to be inconvenienced on such a minor issue by moving to the front row or taking subpar end seats than require it from her.

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