“I wonder if our boxes came,” the rural teacher, Jolene, cried as she opened the school office door where she and other school staff received mail. While on vacation, she shipped treasures back to the school–souvenirs and mementos too large to travel more than a thousand miles in the sub-compact car.
Though Jolene and her sons were still basking in the memory of travel through the tall pines, the principal gave Jolene an account of his scorching summer and the latest issues with the testy rural mail carrier.
Jolene counted the cartons and commented, “They’re all here–all seven of them!” She exclaimed with joy, “Oh, boy! Even the pine cones came!”
Principal Phil cringed and his face reddened all the way down his neck. “Pine cones? Pine cones! I had to drive to the post office forty miles away to pick up pine cones?!”
The principal explained, “Caroline, the mail carrier, decided she wasn’t going to drop the boxes here! That’s her job! But no–anything to make my job more difficult. Everyone else at the school is on vacation. I had to drive into town to get every box.”
Jolene imagined her boss, puffed up with anger, grasping a fresh tumbler of iced tea, his sweat-stained cowboy hat jammed on his head, heading down the highway for the post office. In the double-cab pick-up truck he drove, Principal Phil was calculating each trip at about seven gallons of fuel–much to the temperamental mail carrier’s delight.
The pine cones—Were they worth seven gallons of gas?
Phil continued rankling over the touchy rural employees, “No matter how much I argued about leaving the boxes to the address where they should go, she smirked and handed me a package slip instead. She didn’t even bring the boxes with her! She had the gall to drop a couple of package slips every day. And here’s another one!” He waved the yellow card in Jolene’s face.
“It’s not mine!” she countered. She and her sons left with their boxes.
Until school started, Caroline continued to drop package slips at the school office, forcing Principal Phil to drive to the post office to retrieve packages. She counted herself the winner in the battle of wills.
Prickly pine cone people and relationships: they’re a part of life.
Such brittle hard people can be anywhere: within a family, a marriage, on a job, among clients, at school, at church, or in the community. Apostle Paul certainly knew and had experienced the challenge of many sandpaper people by the time he was on this third missionary journey as he was writing to the church members in Corinth.
Like much of our own nation, Corinth boasted a prosperous business base that counted for power, influence, and immorality.
Just as it is today, standing by Jesus’ example of treating enemies with respect may be something we can’t do in our own power.
Paul penned this famous passage based on Christ’s principles and example, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” [1 Corinthians 13:4-5]
Jesus’ words remind us, “You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.…If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, who are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavily Father is perfect.” [Matthew 5:43-48]
Treating prickly pine cone people with an attitude of Christ is not something we can do in our own power. But we can with God’s help.
And the result may be full of surprises—maybe even fewer trips to the post office.
[Jo Russell is a Christian speaker, author of articles, anthology contributions, and award-winning Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women. available from Amazon.com, her speaking engagements and website, buttontogod.dev. Enjoy chuckles and speeches, tips and excerpts in website options and weekly blog.]