Waiting in Line at the UPS Store
The closer I got to the building, the more people I saw packed inside. Carefully I opened the door while balancing my boxes and pushed my way through the line that snaked itself throughout the room. I took my place at the back with my parcels. In front of me, in single-file, stood a host of strangers with similar loads. Some old, some young. Some were dolled out in jewelry and high heeled boots, others, like me, looked dressed purely for function. Some stared at the phones in their hands, some impatiently scanned the room, while others zoned out—waiting.
We were stuck together. All holding our unwanted packages, and inching along a line that arrested our productivity. We were at the mercy of each other, all waiting our turn at the UPS store with our boxes piled high.
These days we don’t often find ourselves stuck in places of community. The neighborhood grocery store has been replaced with Pickup, Instacart, and Amazon delivery. No lines, no hassle is perhaps the new American dream. We long for ease and speed—for whatever will increase our productivity and get us on our way. As a mom of three I love the convenience of my own personal shopper, yet I wonder if our isolation leaves us forgetful of what we all share.
Perhaps the UPS store was my chance to regain a little of that perspective back.
As I stood in line with my Amazon returns, I wondered at what stories existed around me. All these people came to drop off something. Perhaps it was a shirt that was too big. A jacket that didn’t look very good. Maybe the speaker they got for Christmas broke on the second day, or the kitchen tool they purchased didn’t work as advertised. In this small forced community I saw a microcosm of life on earth.
I saw the sorrow of unmet expectations. I saw the dissatisfaction of things that just don’t fit, the hurt of unwanted circumstances we wish we could exchange, and the grief of constant brokenness.
We might harp on our consumer culture and bemoan the greed and commercialization of the Christmas season. Yet ultimately we all end up together in a line at the UPS store, balancing parcels in our hand, hoping for a return.
When sin came into the world, it brought with it brokenness in every form. Every single one of us feels it. It’s the common thread that unites the eighty-year-old man in a sweater vest and the twenty-four-year-old girl in sweats. The world disappoints each of us in a million different ways. Sin grieves us all and leaves us hoping for more from ourselves and the world around us.
I think of all of us standing there in the UPS line, and it reminded me of Jesus looking out at the crowds. Jesus saw them and felt compassion on them because they were all like sheep without a shepherd (Matt. 9:36). Just like us, the crowds stood there before him- holding their own boxes of disappointments, unmet expectations, and broken pieces. Jesus saw them for what they were—lost and in need of him, their Savior.
In our world that often keeps us as separated as possible, it’s easy for us not to stop and see. We brush right past to our self-checkout lines and drive up pharmacies, and we miss opportunities to remember what we share with that person who is driving too slow in front of us.
Maybe we really need the slow down of the UPS line. Maybe we need to be forced to stop and see the reality that every single one of us share. This world doesn’t deliver all it promises. It lets us down. It leaves us broken. It leaves us dissatisfied and yearning for the next product to fix it. We’re all just sheep in need of a shepherd.
The good news is there is a great and mighty Shepherd. Our Jesus lives even now, and he sees. As his children we’ve felt his guiding and gracious hand. We’ve seen him right the wrong in our own hearts through his own death and resurrection, and we expectantly wait for him to right the entire world. We’ve known the comfort of his love amidst the brokenness and disappointments around us. We’ve experienced hope and life found only in him.
So let’s take our arms full of broken, unwanted, and inadequate parcels and tell those burdened by the same loads about the hope our shepherd offers. He alone is the hope for all of us standing in the return line. He’ll never disappoint his sheep.