Lessons Learned at the Supermarket Checkout

I went grocery shopping at 9 p.m. last night.  Call me crazy but since the schools have released their young inhabitants, I do not wish to go accompanied by “helpers.”  This is especially the case when I need to be on my game.  Armed with $60 worth of coupons that I intended to use, I needed my full capacity.  The stakes were just too high.

I meandered around the store, taking time to stop and smell the doughnuts.  This time when I forgot something a couple rows back, I didn’t mind so much.  I easily made my way back and forth between the aisles without a Strawberry attempting to bungee jump from her seat in the cart or a Sour Patch Kid taking every sweet treat off the shelves and asking me, “Can we get this?”  Heavenly for a bags-under-the-eyes-tired mom.

It was around 10:30 by the time I strolled my heavy-laden cart up to the checkout.  A cashier was swiping and bagging groceries with no customer in sight.  I gave it not much of a thought and began to load my goods on the conveyor.  I barely noticed the customer, a middle-aged woman, come back to where I was busily organizing my bounty into like-groups:  meats over here;  produce over there; a section for boxed goods, frozen foods and chemical-ly products.  And then, out of the corner of my eye I saw her rifling through her purse and out came the words,

I forgot my wallet.

The four dreaded words that I myself have spoken in the past.  First comes the dread, then the panic, then the embarrassment and finally the sheer defeat.  So much work for nothing or maybe an unplanned run home to retrieve the missing culprit. 

My heart felt for this poor woman, no doubt getting groceries at such a late hour because her life, like mine, necessitated it.  But then I heard Him whisper,

Pay the bill.

I looked at the total.  $115 and change.  Oh, Lord.  Not a small chunk of change for a family of 5 and living on a teacher’s salary.  And with this very day’s  impending doom of Honeybun losing his summer work and the several thousand dollars we counted on.   Oh, Lord.  More than I normally spend in a week and not to mention the work I put into carefully planning my trip, clipping coupons and attempting to save every last penny.  Oh, Lord.

And in an instant she was gone.  Back home to fetch the misplaced wallet. 

How many times did I play this very scenario in my head, swearing I’d do the right thing.  But when the opportunity found me, it found me wavering.  Oh, Lord.

The cashier rung up my order, swiped my coupons and bagged my paid-for groceries.  I had saved myself $118.12 when every last sale price was tabulated and every last coupon scanned.  My work had more than made up for her bill.

My heart hurt as I loaded my crinkling plastic bags into the back of the van.  I knew I had disobeyed.  My head started rattling off excuses again but then I stopped and asked myself that oft-mocked question,

What would Jesus do?

And then I knew for sure.  He would have paid.  Oh, how He would have.  And not only would He have paid but He’d have thrown a few checkout lane candy bars on the belt for good measure.

Was He ever stingy?  No.  He gave time.  Just ask the multitudes that vied for His attention, who followed Him across countryside and seas.  He was tired, but He gave.  He gave compassion and forgiveness.  Just ask the woman ready to be stoned for her improprieties.  It was Him who turned the accusers away by simply saying, “He who is without sin, cast the first stone.”  He gave love.  It was love that healed the lepers;  raised the dead;  spoke parable after parable, prayer after prayer, blessing after blessing . 

He gave His very life. 

How could I forget that.  Why does $115 seem so much to me when my very life was bought with a life.  A perfect life.  He can ask me to pay a bill because He already paid the most expensive one.

It’s not about the money.  Hasn’t He always provided?  It’s about the heart.  My heart proved unfaithful this time, but I’m a work in progress.  I’m praying I’ll be able to prove that very soon.  Maybe at the next supermarket checkout.