The Write Word

The Grocery Store Gospel

There is a reoccurring theme to my travels, in fact, should my life ever be put to a soundtrack, it would be to Ray Stevens song “This ain’t exactly what I had in mind”.  Yes indeed, my constant traveling companions, the decidedly unholy trinity Chaos, Mayhem and Calamity, seem to follow me everywhere I go.  They are particularly fond of airports, and we have had encounters that are hardly believable, even to me.  I have started documenting them with photographic evidence, so wild are our interactions.

The last one, to be recounted in further detail at a later time, when the emotional wounds have healed, involved a missing ID, insurance card, money, credit cards and debit card.  These missing essentials were discovered to be missing at the ticket counter, which was five hours drive from their nesting spot and one thousand miles from home.  Did you know that you can go from calm and sane to crazy woman trembling like a leaf in a hurricane in .001 seconds?  Trembling is putting it pretty mildly, suffice to say there was a whooooole lot of shaking going on and believe me it wasn’t pretty.

Fast forward, past the chaos that ensued, and find me, finally, home.  Fast forward to today, where the natives, otherwise known as the Coltharp tribe, are getting restless, wanting milk and eggs and fruit, but alas, these perishables were long gone. My 13-year-old marches down the stairs with her treasure trove, $75 of saved up birthday and Christmas money.  Thrusting it into my hand, along with an invoice stating, “Grocery Budget owes me $75” she sends me off with a kiss and a wave.  Great. Now not only am I a clueless mother who is resorting to raiding her kid’s savings in order to feed them, but now I am a potential convict, knowingly breaking the law by driving without an ID and insurance card.  Sigh.  I can read the headlines now “Pastors wife arrested”, not exactly the publicity we’re looking for in our city.

I get to the store and do my best to keep inside the $75 limit.  Rachel math is abysmal at best, and under presser, it’s worse.  So when I get up to the counter I’m as anxious as Camilla Parker-Bowles at a We-Love-Di convention, already assuming that I’m going to be weighted in the balance, and found wanting.  Sure enough the total rings up, $76.12.  Flashing through my mind are all the things I want to say, the excuses I want to share with the people behind me who are impatient for their turn. The cashier is looking at me and mouthing the words again, louder this time, “SEVENTY-SIX DOLLARS AND TWELVE CENTS”.  I want to say, “I do have enough money to get what we need, just not with me.”  I want to explain that it is due to circumstances beyond my control, but I realize that they do not care.  It makes no difference to them the why,  they don’t even care about my embarrassment.  All they care about is that I am in their way, holding up the line. 

I scan the cart swiftly, trying to decide what to put back, whom to disappoint.  The applesauce? No, Reagan wanted that.  The strawberries?  No, Grant wanted those.  The broccoli?  No, Lincoln asked for that.  Ok, the bell peppers then.  There goes the ump for my tacos, and the spaghetti sauce, sigh, but something has to go.  I grab out the bag of bell peppers and say “I need to put this back please”.  With an irritated flick of the wrist the cashier whips the bag from my hand, scans it and announces in a less than courteous voice, “Seventy-two sixty”.  I hand her the money, the borrowed money, and scuttle off to bag my groceries.

As I stand at the bagging counter, my face burning with shame, it dawns on me, the truth of this moment.  Always before I have use my debit card, drawing on the deposits my husband puts into the account for me; always sure that there is going to be enough.  Sure, we budget it out, but there is always a small cushion for when I have to go over.  He always covers it for me.  I realize I have not been as appreciative as I should have been, that I have taken for granted his thoughtful provisions.  And the big truth shines through the moment, clearing away the fogginess of my human thinking.  In my own strength/wisdom, I am always going to come up short. 

Even when I borrow from others, I am still not going to be able to cover every need my family has.  Only when I depend on my provider, my soul provider, only when I use His name, draw on His resources am I going to be able to get/do/be all they need.  I am humbled, here on this now holy ground of the grocery store. 

It is a lesson I will not soon forget.  And to think that it took my companions, my oft bemoaned companions Chaos, Mayhem and Calamity to get me here.

Where do you find yourself today?  What chaos has wrecked your plans?  What unexpected thing has robbed you of your ease?  Has your body lost strength, mobility, or health?  Have your relationships let you down? Have you found yourself no longer able to provide for the financial, physical, emotional or mental need of someone you love? Are you embarrassed by what others may be thinking of your situation? 

Then come, sit with me here, on the floor of the grocery store.  Let’s close our eyes and soak in these truths. 

#1 Only when we depend on something 
bigger than ourselves 
are we going to be able 
to fill the needs around us. 

#2 Life is going to have disappointments.  
Maybe we have had to leave something behind, 
because we simply cannot pay for it, and someone is going 
to be disappointed because of it.  
Or maybe we had to put back something we wanted, 
so someone else could have what they wanted, 
and we find ourselves feeling resentful.

#3 Don't focus on what you can't/don't get.
Count the bags still in the cart.  
Choose gratitude for what we have and let it go. 
Don’t let Chaos, Mayhem and Calamity get the last laugh.  
Get out your gratitude grocery list, and let the 
Grocery Store Gospel fill the cart 
of your heart.