The Last Straw

Theology Thursday

Last summer, before our congregationally-run Now Church voted to call her as our settled pastor, we had a meet-and-greet for RevCD and her husband, so we could, you know, meet and greet her. And better inform our votes, I guess. She and I were having a nice conversation and then, sort of between “shifts,” she said she was going to sit in the chapel for a while to meet with God before the next round of meeters and greeters. “Nice idea,” I said. “Say hi to Him for me.”

She grinned. “I’ll say hi to Her for you,” she said. I had previously just informed her that she probably needed to be aware that I was theologically more conservative than she was likely to be and she was (to my surprise at the time because I didn’t really know her then) okay with it.

“Yeah,” I said, “It’s too bad there isn’t a gender neutral pronoun that isn’t more personal than ‘it.'”

“God,” she said. “I really think it’s God.”

I don’t disagree, but I probably have a slightly different angle on the issue of God’s gender, and so I’ve basically been thinking up a blogpost around that conversation ever since. Which I probably shouldn’t admit, because then you’ll expect the one that I finally write to be better than it actually ends up being, but never mind. You might also expect it to be this blogpost, which is what I also expected, but I’m still having trouble wording it. So instead I’m going to reblog another Starbucks post from my Old Blog (which, it turns out, was a pretty good blog, if I say so myself) that is also theological. (The advantage to reading it here is that the original didn’t have pictures.)

In fact, there’s a theological term in there that RevCD and I might also not come at from the same angle, and actually, I probably wouldn’t use the term anymore, although I think I still believe in it in some way. See if you can guess what it is. And see what you make of this:

The Last Straw

Kristen-to-the-Maxx doesn’t think that all people are equally capable of all types of error and evil. She likes to sit at the bar and read the newspaper and make observations about all the lunacy that goes on in the world. I at least say that I think we’re all equally capable of any heinousness, due to total depravity, but I don’t think we’re necessarily equally likely to commit all the same errors and evil, due to our different personalities. We got into kind of a heated discussion about this once, because she was quite sure I, for example, wouldn’t do a certain thing she had just read about. I maintained that, while I couldn’t imagine being inclined to whatever it was, I couldn’t truthfully say I wasincapable of it. I have a maybe nearly superstitious fear that if I ever claim that I would never do something, I am forthwith doomed to do it. This isn’t entirely unfounded, because every so often I startle myself by doing (or at least really really wanting to do) something I theretofore never would have contemplated.

Last Saturday was one of those times. There’s a long version of the story, but the short version is that at the very end of an unusually stressful shift, a customer demanded his money back because one of us hadn’t given him the right sized straw for his drink. This was, in fact, something of a customer service error and, from that perspective, our fault. It was also a pretty big deal to make about a straw.

Some pretty big straws.

Some pretty big straws.

The problem was, by the time this irate personage had confronted us about it, I was so stressed about other stuff that I was practically hyperventilating. By the time he walked out the door, I was even more furious than he had been. If Rich hadn’t dragged me into the back room, I probably would have thrown iced coffee. In public. And if he hadn’t given me a hug (which I really really didn’t want, given that I was so mad, but which was clearly the smartest thing under the circumstances), I absolutely would have started slamming lockers and punching pounds of coffee beans back there. I’ve gotten mad before, but not like that.

I was mad because I was stressed, and I was mad because I felt disrespected, and I was madder because I felt my colleagues had been disrespected. I was also mad that someone could make such a fuss about a straw.

Then I realised I was making a bigger fuss about a straw. I don’t know what that guy was or is up against to make him care about straws so deeply, but it wasn’t really the point under the circumstances. The point was that I had opted to let whatever he was dealing with turn me into a monster. I became hateful and violent, which, in my more self-righteous moments, I never thought I was capable of being. Also, he actually came into the store again last night and I found to my chagrin that I was too afraid to face him. I don’t like to think that I’m a coward either.

People say, “Don’t be so hard on yourself.” And we’ve been able to joke about this since. It’s becoming in-store lore already, and in the lore I don’t look as bad as I really did at the time. But still, sometimes it’s not being hard on yourself to take a good hard look at the depths of personal darkness. The stuff that people see can be bad enough, but often it’s only the tip of the iceberg, and sometimes you do or feel something that opens the cellar door just for you. Even if no one else can see how dark it is down there, you can. And then it’s hard and scary to look, but it’s not unreasonable or unwarranted to do it.

My personal cellar is not this cool. This one is Istanbul's. (25 - The Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayı)

My personal cellar is not this cool. This one is Istanbul’s. (25 – The Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayı)

Sometimes I think God lets me get in touch with my total depravity so that I can stop subconsciously thinking I’m incapable of certain things and therefore capable of taking care of everything myself. I like to think I’m good all by myself, and then it turns out it was Him all along. When my pride gets its kneecaps kicked in and is no longer blocking the doorway, He can lead me down the stairs with a flashlight or two and get a little spring cleaning done.

If Medusa's down there, definitely need backup.

If Medusa’s down there, I definitely need a Hero.


6 thoughts on “The Last Straw

    • That it is. I’m not even sure why I used that term THEN, because I’ve never been fully Calvinistic–but I think at the time I had a friend who was converting from agnosticism to very very Reformed Christianity, and we had a mutual friend who was struggling with TULIP, and so maybe the terms came more quickly to hand at the time.

  1. Hi Jenn,
    Guessing the theological term you are referring to is “total depravity”- am I right?? I remember the first time hearing that term. I have never been able to accept that doctrine…..I would be a terrible Calvinist. The only letter in the TULIP that I am completely comfortable with is the “P”- so that would make me a one point Calvinist- which isn’t really any kind of a Calvinist at all.

    While I do believe that humanity is indeed fallen and deeply marred as a result of our sinful, human nature- I would like to think that, since we are made in the image of God, we have retained some small, maybe even microscopic portion of His goodness. Even after the Fall..(gasp!!) When Adam and Eve sinned, they were filled with shame and guilt very quickly after…..They hid. They knew they were wrong. There was no one to explain this to them. They just knew. That is what happens to most people after they sin and I think that we have those feelings because of that microscopic goodness. Otherwise we would all just be sociopaths and clearly we are not all sociopaths…..And being a sociopath is a documented mental illness- not just a moral failing.

    We are attracted as humans to Good. To Love. To Kindness. To Light. Not all humans are but a lot of us are. We are far, far, far from Good- that is why we need a Savior…But many of us want to be connected to Good and I think that has to count for something……That is why so many of us are searching for that connection to Goodness. And that Goodness is God.

    • I basically agree with this. I, too, am not really a Calvinist. Possibly more of one than you. 😉 But I agree that we retain some good. I don’t think God’s image was or is totally erased. But see my response to the other guesser who posted here. 🙂

  2. I meant to add that the timing of the post was odd to say the least. You stole my thunder. Exactly one week ago I had a very public last straw moment. Unlike you I didn’t hesitate to throw the iced coffee ‘cross the room so to speak. I rarely do. As the song says, “God help the beast in me”.
    Good, no, great and much appreciated repost.

    • Oh–I’m so glad. It’s weird how in hindsight, I can’t begin to imagine what built up in the rest of that day to bring me to that state, but that just confirms the monster theory, in my opinion. Sorry you had a moment like that. Thanks for sharing it, though.

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