“Spiritual struggle” isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind when I think about buying my food. But lately, I’ve noticed a lot of judgement as I work through the aisles – from other people to me and from me to other people.
Kids are a big source of this. When I see someone else’s kids screaming their heads off, I tend to feel smug that mine aren’t grabbing the candy or taking off in the produce section or hiding behind temporary displays. Mine are sitting nicely in the cart watching the bad kids. That is just pride! I feel as though I am in a position to condemn this woman’s parenting because God is graciously enabling my kids to obey. What this other mother needs are not judgmental looks, but encouragement, and maybe the gospel.
Looks are another issue, at least for women. When I manage to get everyone to the grocery store after a full school day, I don’t look my best. Sometimes, my shoes don’t even match the rest of my outfit – they are just comfortable. But the grocery store is not just frequented by mothers with screaming toddlers; upper-middle class career women need supper, too. And I have come around a corner more than once to have one of them, perfectly dressed, made-up, accessorized and manicured, look up at me in seeming disbelief. She has heard about species like me – “breeders” who stay home with small, unintelligent children all day – but she never expected to meet one in real life. I don’t need to feel as though I look like something the cat dragged home, even though I might. I need some understanding and encouragement in obeying the Lord’s calling in my life.
The other issue that causes much judgement is what people are putting in their carts. When I see the person too obese to walk reaching for the chips from their motorized “cart”, I feel disgusted, and it shows. But this person needs help, not disgust. And when the Adidas-clad jogger with the organic carrots peers sideways into my cart and sees a tub of ice cream, I see the judgement: how can I feed my growing children something like that? I need some space, not more mommy-guilt. Or the person using food stamps to pay for their food tries to hide it from other people in the line – it’s our tax money, after all. That person also needs help (beyond food stamps) instead of cold judgement.
All of these examples are just manifestations of sin in various people to various other people. People made in God’s image judging strangers who are also made in God’s image. Matthew 7:1-2 is often misapplied, but is so applicable here. We are not to judge these people who in some way or another need help – either with their obvious sin or with their pride. I also need help with my sin and pride – I need the Lord’s forgiveness for judging people when I know little or nothing about their situations. I need to pray that instead of judgment, I would see opportunities to help, encourage, smile, pray and follow Christ faithfully, even in the bread aisle. I need God’s grace to help me do something as simple as get my food.