Not long ago, we were in California. Probably because it was so hot outside, I remembered another hot Southern California day from long ago. On that day, I remember I was in the mood for something cool to drink and refreshing to eat. The thought of a good glass of iced tea and a quart of artery hardening ice cream seemed like just the ticket. So off I headed to a local grocery store. As is the case in most places in the LA area, the parking lot was packed. Tempers rose as two to three cars competed for each open space.
Once I parked, I walked into the store and headed straight for the ice cream section. Instead of looking at the ice cream options through the glass, I opened up each door so the frigid air would cool me off. Finally I found a one of my favorite ice creams, a real Lipitor special. I then made my way to the check out line, which like the parking lot, was packed with people.
As I stood there, a man and his wife came up and stood behind me in line. As we slowly made our way forward, the man’s voice got louder as his criticisms of his wife got nastier and crueler. After several minutes, I along with the other shoppers in line became uneasy and uncomfortable. Just before it was my turn to check out, I had reached my limit. The man’s vicious attacks had his wife in tears. While I don’t remember exactly what I said, I tried to suggest to the man that there was another way to work things out. Needless to say, he did not respond well to my intrusion.
I won’t repeat exactly what he said. But he said something like, “who the heck do you think you are?” He followed me into the parking lot repeating the phrase over and over threatening to hit me as I got into my car and left without responding.
Although I was a bit undone by the experience, when I got back home, I sat down and began to eat the ice cream. With each spoonful, I thought not only about the incident, but I reflected on the man’s question. “Who do you think you are?” As I thought about the events that day, I realized that while the man’s actions, hostility, and treatment of his wife were completely not ok, in actuality, his question was and is a good one. “Who do you think you are?”
To this day, the question remains fresh and powerfully relevant. It is a question that is not only applicable to me, but I believe to each one of you as well. “Who do you think you are?” It is a relevant question because how we answer it powerfully determines and influences our thoughts, actions, feelings, and relationships with other people. It is a relevant question because our answer affects how we see ourselves and our purpose in life. It is also a relevant question because our answer reflects where we sit with God.
If we were to go out into the streets of Snowmass Village or Denver and ask people, “who do you think you are?” we would likely get a variety of responses and answers. Some would say, “who do you think you are to ask me such a question, bug off.” Others might say, “I am an accountant, teacher, or retired person.” Some might respond, “Gee, I have never thought about that question,” or “I am a mother with three children trying to make ends meet,” or “I don’t know.”
Regardless of how a person might answer that question publicly, I wonder how people privately would respond. I also wonder how many people would answer the question with God in mind. Do we spend thinking about how God sees us? Does this reflection ultimately determine how we see others and ourselves? Does how God see us, dramatically influence our behavior, thoughts, and feelings?
Who do you and I think we are?