There are times in life when our own desires tempt us to do wrong. If we allow these desires to reign in our minds it leads to sin. James 1:14-15 “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” I did something one day I would rather keep confidential between a few friends, God, and myself but He says otherwise. When I told God I didn’t want to share my sin with the world He said, “Pride comes before the fall. Let your pride fall so you don’t.” So here goes! My prayer is that this will encourage and free others to live for righteousness rather than remaining slaves to sin and its effects.
I dislike shopping (a lot) but do like good deals so Tuesdays at Goodwill is the place to shop because it is “Tag” day when all items with that week’s designated color tag are $1.49. My personal rule is to look only at things with that Tuesday’s tag color to avoid the temptation to purchase items at regular price. But I wanted to get my granddaughter snow pants and boots so went to Goodwill on a Thursday which is 50% off day for infant and toddler items. Children’s clothes are near the shoes so I looked over the racks and saw a pair I liked with a blue tag which happened to be the following Tuesday’s sale color so I planned to return and get them, part of the joy of exercising self-control. The next Tuesday I went and that pair was gone but I found similar ones with more wear and tear but no tag. Goodwill never puts that Tuesday’s color tag on an untagged item therefore I knew I would need to pay full price for less than perfect shoes. This is where I let my desire override righteousness by taking a blue tag from another pair of shoes and putting it on the untagged shoes. Stupid and sinful! Romans 6:16 “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?”
Thankfully Holy Spirit was right there with me to say “NO, JULIE”! It was not audible but it might as well have been. Of course I regretted even taking the first step into sin as I immediately fell to my knees as I replaced the shoes and repented of my sin. I was shocked at my own willingness to knowingly sin but so thankful to Holy Spirit for guiding me. Even though no one else knew what had just happened except God and me, l felt humiliated and humbled at the same time.
I couldn’t just “let it go” so continued talking with God about my actions as I meandered through the store picking out clothes to try on still feeling like a loser in the process. Eventually I had a cart full of clothes to try on so went to the dressing rooms which are always full on Tag Tuesday but this day there were four available, one of them being the big one reserved for people with disabilities though it is not “marked” as such. Now ordinarily, choosing a dressing room is a no-brainer. Take the first one. But there I stood at the wall of dressing rooms sensing God was telling me to go into the large one but I hesitated and argued with Him, fearful of messing up again. I must have looked ridiculous standing there talking to myself with a full cart looking at four open dressing rooms. Eventually I relented to His “prompting” and started unloading the cartload of clothes into the big room. When I got into the room, there sitting on the bench were “the” shoes I had come to purchase. Stunned, I wondered if He now was giving me the shoes I wanted even after I had nearly stole shoes at a lower price, and if He was, I wasn’t sure I wanted them anymore.
On a personal note: When I sin, confess, and repent, I generally like to beat myself up for awhile before receiving forgiveness. I know this is pointless and even counsel others not to fall into this trap but still find myself in that place at times. The truth is we never “deserve” forgiveness but Jesus paid a great price so we could be forgiven and when we choose not to receive His forgiveness, refuse to forgive ourselves, or play the martyr for the sake of appeasing our own guilt, we make light of His sacrifice. 1 Peter 2:24 “…(Jesus) bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness…”
So right there in a dressing room at Goodwill, God was teaching me (again) to promptly receive His forgiveness, stop pouting and feeling sorry for myself, and stop feeling guilty and beating myself up over my mistake. So there I was, alone with God, needing to make another choice on the spot. The first time it was about sin, this time it was about forgiveness. Would I accept His forgiveness or reject it? I did what I knew was right in my heart. I received from Him, instantly aware this experience was NOT about shoes but about forgiveness, grace, mercy, and His love. Romans 6:17-18 “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” In less than an hour God had guided me from sin, heard my confession and repentance, forgiven me, poured His grace on me, and then rewarded me with a gift. What a mighty God we serve!
But it didn’t end there! I tried the shoes on – perfect fit! I looked for the blue tag only to discover it was gone except for an inconspicuous patch remaining AND there was a green tag stuck to the bench revealing someone had switched tags. Now what? I wasn’t sure what to feel. I know God doesn’t play tricks on His people so just stood there pondering what God was going to show me next. Remember the “rule” at Goodwill? If an item needs a tag, it will not be given the color of that “tag” day. Remember my “rule”? I will not pay anything more than $1.49 on Tuesdays. I “knew” I would not get these shoes for $1.49 therefore concluded this was simply the consequence for my sinful desire and dishonesty.
But I also had to consider the possibility God was telling me to go against “my rule” and pay full price as a consequence for my actions. So I came up with a better idea – I wouldn’t even try to purchase them thus could avoid this consequence. How sad is that? With this decision made, I left the shoes on the bench, tried on clothes, but while returning unwanted items to the rack outside my dressing room, I clearly heard Holy Spirit say “Take the shoes with you”, to which I clearly responded, “No!”
Now you would think after what God had been saying my reply would have promptly been “Yes, Lord!” But no, there I stood again looking ridiculous, arguing with God. How could a simple trip to purchase a pair of shoes for $1.49 at Goodwill get so complicated? Welcome to my world! I was now frustrated that a “quick” trip to Goodwill was taking over an hour and I was being dealt with by God the entire time. And since I lose every argument with God (good thing), I did put the shoes in my cart, all the while asking Him “What’s the use? I am not going to get them for $1.49! And God, I’m not paying full price!” In the midst of complaining to God I was also saying to myself, “Sure! You are willing to steal but not pay full price. What a loser!” Does anyone else have these kinds of conversations with yourself or God or am I alone in this?
When I got to the check-out there was a long line, obviously a set up giving me more time to wrestle with God! I mean seriously! What are the chances there was “no” line at the dressing rooms and a huge line at the check-out? On Tuesdays there are lines at both places. God was definitely dealing with me! Looking at the three cashiers, I wondered which one I could convince to give me the shoes for $1.49 with just a speck of blue tag showing. I quickly determined none of them. I had a moment of panic when I pictured another scenario. Maybe God was teaching me a tough lesson in honesty and was going to make me confess how I switched tags on the other pair of shoes. I could already see the newspaper headline “Pastor’s wife arrested for thinking about stealing. Confessed to a theft she never did!”
I wanted to get away, leave my cart and escape when a fourth cashier walked up, looked in my direction and said she would take the next person in line. I recognized her from the week before so naturally I thought this was my “in” as I got in her line, still wondering how God was going to work this out. When it was my turn I put the clothes on the counter and handed the now “infamous” shoes to her while telling an illustrious story of how I was in the store the week before, found these shoes with a blue tag, waited until today to buy them knowing it was blue tag Tuesday, couldn’t find them, went in the dressing room, found them, then realized someone removed the blue tag, but if she would look closely she could see the speck of blue to prove they had been a blue tag item.
She listened then smiled politely and said, “You know I can’t give them to you for $1.49.” Yep, I knew that! But rather than hanging on to my pride and accepting her response I re-painted the situation hoping to convince her I should get the shoes for $1.49 to which she simply reiterated their policy and asked if I would like a new price. I declined and thanked her for listening to my sob story as she put the shoes under the counter for restocking and proceeded to check me out. I was thinking, “What was the point of this God?” when the cashier suddenly reached back under the counter, brought out the shoes and said, “Do you REALLY want these?” Of course I was shocked AGAIN and replied, “Yes ma’am, I really want them.” She said, “Do you promise not to return these shoes to the store?” I said, “I will not but if I don’t want them at some point I will donate them not return them.” She then said, “If you promise not to bring them back I will sell them to you for $1.49.”
I walked away from Goodwill that day with new shoes and a smile on my face. This smile was not because I got a great deal but because I had just experienced Immanuel – God with us! God had taken time to lead me from sin and teach me a huge spiritual lesson through an everyday occurrence. I could have left Goodwill an hour earlier after putting the shoes back when He spoke “No, Julie”. But I would have spent the rest of the day beating myself up for stupidity and missed God’s greater plan. It was still a painful plan as I was faced with my own obstinacy but His grace was evident the entire journey (it was only about an hour but it sure seemed like a very long trek) all the while experiencing the goodness of God firsthand feeling humbled, thankful, amazed, and completely forgiven.
“Good” “will” never be the same for me on Tuesdays or any other day! Every time I go to Goodwill I “will” remember how “good” He is to me. And He “will” be “good “to you as well! Enjoy Him! Delight yourself in Him! He “will” give you the desires of your heart! Our own desires lead to sin – but when our desires are the fruit of delighting in Him, He will give us our desires! Amen!