I’ll have to admit that I have always had a “personal space” issue. I come by it honestly. Four out of us five siblings could stretch our arms out to the side, spin counter-clockwise and say “if you’re standing within this circle, then you’re too close.” I really never heard the phrase “personal space” until I was grown, but I was well aware of the concept.
It’s not that I don’t like people……I have wonderful friends and family, but when it comes to strangers, that’s where the stop sign flies up and the brakes are applied. I often wish I was more open and have tried hard to be, but it just seems soooo unnatural for me.
When I was in my twenties, I remember a young man at the old Kingsland Theater in St. Louis striking up a conversation with me. It was a gospel concert and he seemed like a perfectly normal guy, but I was a little uncomfortable….I’m not sure why. Every time he took a step toward me, I subconsciously took a step backwards. Finally, he said, “Look where we are. You’ve been backing up constantly and we are now eight to ten feet from where we started.” Guilty as charged.
I was reminded of my personal space issues today as I ran some errands around town. It seemed that everywhere I went there was someone on my heels or in my space. I’ve had to deliberately slow my gait due to some recent health issues and be more conscious of strolling, not hoofing, through a store like I’m accustomed to. I do try to stay out of the middle of the aisle so others can go around me, but honestly, I never knew how many people would actually just run up on your heels with their shopping cart.
After avoiding having my heels clipped several times, I finally got to the checkout lane where a foul-mouthed young man who had commandeered a motorized cart for kicks got in line behind me. Every two seconds he was revving the cart, inching it up closer and closer to me, so much so I could no longer stand behind my own “buggy”, as my dad used to say. I so badly wanted to scream, “Do you mind?!!”, but was afraid the political correctness police would think I was persecuting some poor misunderstood kid, instead of the entitled brat that he was. So, I let it slide, but it definitely rattled me.
I love to eat out and go to concerts, but as I’ve gotten older the pushing and shoving and jostling around me as we stand in a ticket line or wait for a table makes me feel edgy, overwhelmed and irritated. I remember my brother used to say, “I’d like to go to a concert where I am the only one in the audience.” I laughed at him then, but now I understand. I don’t like being crowded. I don’t like being made to feel as if I’m being pushed along against my will.
Any other northerner who has ever driven Monteagle can tell you the worst feeling in the world is to have some forty ton hog-hauling eighteen wheeler tagging your bumper on the steep grade down. That’ll make your heart pound. Yes, I know you’re in a hurry. Yes, I know I’m in your way. No, I’m not speeding up because there’s a van full of work release prisoners ahead of me that I certainly don’t want to enrage. Trapped. Sometimes all I want to do is head my car uphill into the run-away truck lane just to get away from it all! My other option is being pushed over the edge. Neither choice is optimal.
Sometimes life has that same effect on us. It seems to push us faster and faster to the point that we feel out of control or about to be run over. All we want to do is bail out. Sometimes I feel like the walls are closing in and if one more person calls my name with a demand attached to it, I’ll go nuts. Been there?
I know all of life’s aggravations are a drop in the proverbial bucket next to those suffering for Christ in distant parts of the world, but when YOUR world is upside down with worry, or grief, or just prolonged periods of the same old heartache day in and day out, it’s just as real.
So when life threatens to run you over or hem you in, remember 2 Corinthians 4:8-10. I love the way the NIV states it: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned, struck down, but not destroyed; we always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”
Take a deep breath. Have patience. God has this.