Reluctant Grace for the Girl at the Hardware Store




“You’re hovering” I say, a little sharper then before so she might get the signal. So she might leave me alone.


“I am NOT!” She says back in a loud giggle, only to then, abruptly pout her lips in some sort of offer to flirt.


Deep breaths.


This girl, this girl, this girl.


She wanders through the store as a drifter, standing in others’ space, sitting on the aisle floor absentmindedly scrolling through her phone, busting my chops in the worst kinds of ways, telling nauseating jokes, poking me- POKING ME- and all the other male employees laugh because she had the same fluttery, no sense of boundaries, love for them as well.


An assistant manager asks her three times to sweep the entrance to the store, a handful of leaves have blown, and she finally drags herself over with a broom, sweeping the floor without even looking at it, without hitting a single leaf that needed to be swept out. Unbelievable.


The assistant manager looks at her annoyed.


“I’m not good at sweeping.” She shrugs, drops her lips in her pout, “I never have been.”


I am over at the gloves section sorting through the separated pairs, trying to bring them together, set them in a way that will make the boss think my hire was a smart decision by him.


But I turn around and say,


“How can you be bad at sweeping? Unless you’re physically handicapped, this is the simplest job you could be given.”


She giggles again, sits on an open ladder and pulls out her phone. Oh my god, this girl.


Beyond the missing of Minnesota, the interviews that led nowhere, the silence of the house as my relatives are on vacation, this girl has been the bane of my existence.


Part of me sympathizes with her, at least, more than the other guys who, with not much tact, sharply whispered, “stop fucking touching me.” Part of me sympathizes with her, because- of course- even if she wasn’t so aggressive, oblivious and lazy, it would never work out between us.


Another part says, Unwanted Touch. Disgusting sexual jokes made IN FRONT of customers. Unwillingness to sweep a few leaves off the floor.


And as I’ve become more aware of abuse, ethical boundaries, and privilege, dealing with this girl ties me up in knots. Apparently, she has had a hard life. Her knees hurt from some mysterious accident. Kids bullied her. She says things, strange ones about herself, things that raise all the red flags. She is both victim and perp. Sinner and Saint.


And walking that fine line of listening, loving, resisting hasty judgment without leading on or enabling inappropriate behavior seems so very difficult. Nearly impossible.


But the more I think of it, despite my irritation at the thought, the more I know that this is, in fact, doable. I resist it because it requires me to do something in light of her behavior. It asks me to be kind, smile not scowl, compliment not condemn, while simultaneously pulling up the pluck to say, “I’m not comfortable” with your (fill in the blank) behavior. This is not okay for me. You make me feel unsafe (even when I want to say, annoyed, disgusted, apprehensive.)


This grace, this grace, this grace. God help me.


It is not for the faint of heart, grace. But then again, the faint of heart needs to practice it most. They need to imitate a grin to cover their gritting teeth, maintain healthy boundaries, and learn that this is no easy thing. Grace is work when you don’t want to work. Grace is softening your words, tone, body language a lot more than usual. It is effort, effort, effort. It is failure, failure, failure.


Grace finds its’ purpose in people that have no filter in their mouth, respect for others’ boundaries, or willingness to work. Grace is seeing the backstory, accepting not only that I am accepted, but she is too. She is adored by Jesus, in every way, and there’s nothing she can change that would make him love her more. He’s counting on me to show that.


And in the end, grace is not so much about changing her, or whoever it is in your life. Grace is about softening up yourself a bit more. Loosening up those inner kinks, so love might make its’ way down faster, inwardly and outwardly and upwardly to the God that’s been showing it to you all this time. Grace is hard. But grace is, in the end, a gift.