One day, I went to the pet store to pick up some food and litter for my cats. After I paid, the cashier looked at the 20 pound bag of litter and asked if I needed help getting it to my car. I smiled and thanked her for the offer but said I would be fine. I hoisted the bag onto my shoulder, picked up the bag of food and headed out. In the parking lot, I passed a man walking toward the pet store. He looked at me and my packages, then smiled. “It’s nice to see a woman who just handles things,” he said. I laughed and said, “I’m pretty used to it.” Neither the man or the cashier knew what I do for a living.
One of the most common requirements seen on a job description for a zookeeper is the ability to lift at least 50 pounds. That seems to be the weight of most bags of dry food (often called grain or chow in the zoo). These bags I tend to just sling over my shoulder to carry from the supply shed to a vehicle and then from the vehicle (which can never get super close to the destination) to the storage area. Bags of food aren’t the only heavy things I have to carry. Probably the heaviest thing I regularly tackle on my own is a bag of concrete mix. These bags are typically between 60 and 80 pounds and have to be carried from the storage shed to my penguin exhibit which is quite a distance away. When my coworkers see me carrying one of these bags, they don’t offer to help or make a witty remark. If they say anything, they ask what project I’m working on then let me get to it. We all do that kind of work, so it isn’t unusual.
These different views of a person doing the same type of thing made me think of the way Christians are often perceived. Whether it is conscious or not, we tend to change when we’re in church. We feel we need to look and act the part, to stand out as a bearer of holiness. We try to “measure up” to what we think a Christian should be, when in truth our church family should be the people we are allowed to be broken around. They are the ones who truly know how dirty and sinful we all are without the covering of Jesus.
It is out in the world that we should stand out. We should be the exceptions, the unexpected, like I was to that man at the pet store. His view of women was clearly one of fragility; therefore, a woman showing the kind of strength usually expected of a man was something remarkable. Non-Christians should see us and have reason to smile and comment positively. Our actions and attitudes should give us opportunity to point to the only One who can make us strong.
“Even a child is known by his deeds, whether what he does is pure and right.” Proverbs 20:11