We’re officially back from Ixtapa, Mexico, suntanned and more relaxed than before. You’ll doubtless be hearing a lot about our trip in the coming weeks, since I found plenty of ways to embarrass myself in another country.
Most of the time, we stayed on the beach or by the pool, enjoying Jose Cuervo’s finest and reading fluffy novels. I took along a couple of bodice ripping historical fiction works to fill the time. Dan’s reading involved guns, adventures, and other manly sorts of things.
We picked a place that was off the beaten path, away from the main tourist areas of Ixtapa. Our hope was to find somewhere away from early spring breakers and other drunk Americans. Thankfully, for the most part, our resort seemed to cater to Mexican families.
But, there were the standout Americans who somehow found their way to our little private paradise. Around day 4, they started showing up, and they always found each other by the pool. There were about 5 couples, and all of them seemed to come from somewhere in the Midwest. They all came with their own big gulp sized containers, which they took to the swim up bars to refill every hour or so.
They all seemed to have megaphones permanently attached to their faces because no matter where we migrated to around the pool, we could always hear their loud, drunken banter. It was hard to snooze in the sun overhearing shouting matches about the best way to mix a drink or the costs of home ownership. Dan and I grumbled about being ashamed of our countrymen. We hoped that we were better representatives.
After awhile, I recognized my prideful attitude, and I tried to recall some of the remedies that I’d recently read in C.J. Mahaney’s little gem of a book Humility: True Greatness. One of his suggestions was to try to see people from God’s point of view, to look for evidence of grace in their lives, to see where God is working. This can mean looking for fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and gifts of the spirit (Romans 12:6-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:8-10).
I sat there on my lounge chair, singing my stupid little fruits of the spirit song to remember all of them, trying to figure out if any of them applied to the drunken idiots disturbing my peace on the other side of the pool. My annoyance was clouding my ability to find any grace at work. Grumble, Grumble.
Later, we left and dressed for dinner. While walking to the restaurant, we noticed a breathtaking sunset and stopped for a moment to snap some pictures. Many people walked by while we were posing in front of the camera, but nobody stopped to join us, until the Americans came along.
The whole group of them was on their way to the bar, but they stopped when they saw us and offered to take our photo in front of the sunset. Two of them took turns taking different shots of us, trying to get the best angle and the most flattering pose. They spent several minutes with us, and they complimented us on how nicely dressed we were and how wonderful it was that we were married for so long and so obviously still in love. Afterwards, they invited us to join them for drinks.
Here were my signs of grace. I’d been rubbed in the face with them. These people obviously had better things to do than stop and do a photo session with us. They were wonderfully generous, patient with us, kind for their sincere compliments and offers for companionship, and good for their service to strangers.
When I was fuming by the pool, I forgot about future grace, and the way God could also work in their lives outside of that moment. I was too focused on a low point in their lives, and my bitterness clouded my ability to look beyond it for God’s grace elsewhere.
I’m not saying that we should value people based on what they can do for us because I think this could easily be interpreted that way. However, in this case, I think I needed to have these people demonstrate God’s grace to me in such an overt way to get the point across. God often needs to be blunt with me. He even left me with a souvenir of the event to remind me to humbly look for his grace in others.