Today I needed spinach and ricotta for lunch’s lasagna. It was 10:00 a.m., so I was racing against the clock. In the store I quickly tossed items from my list into my basket and headed up front. The store had two checkers. The line fartherest from me had one customer, nearly checked out. I angled for that line, when coming from behind on my left was a woman, also with a few items. She looked like she was trying to cut me off, but I was a neck ahead of her. Ordinarily I would have slowed down, but time was fleeting, and I had a casserole to cook. The need to speed had taken over my brain. My competitor was inching forward, with a few side-long glances in my direction as she gauged my distance. Still, it looked like I could make the gate first, only fair, since I had approached first, and I was in a hurry.
Out of left field a third checker called out ‘can I help you’. A new line was opening with no wait. My racing companion swung into the new lane with all of her seven items. I had the coveted place in the now middle isle. Somehow, though, it felt as if I had lost, even though I had gained what I had been jockeying for. She was checking out first. In fact, if I had stepped back, she would have been hemmed in by the candy counter, and I would have been checking out first, shaving maybe three minutes off my over-all time. Instead I got the silver, she got the gold.
That’s when I noticed the swirl of chemicals in my head. They were churning. No matter when I could check out, impatience had hi-jacked my brain. The peace of my day had been disturbed. And I understood: With peace, you are either peaceful, or you summon the brain chemicals for war. Either/or. The face or the vase. Two different perceptions and you can’t hold both in your brain at one time. There is no partial peace.
When I left the store my opposition was in front of me. For the first time I noticed her, really noticed her. She was wearing an apron. She was headed somewhere to cook lunch, just like me, with the same time limitations I had. God’s speed to her, and His peace to me and to her, because peace—it’s just not a competitive sport.