I went to Target wanting to be a light for others and ended up with a smashed pickle jar, a crying toddler, a crying baby, a pouty soon to be kindergartener and a wave of embarrassment and mortification for me. The preschooler seemed to be the only person unscathed, but to her advantage, she was riding on the hopes of getting some pez candy for her Elsa pez dispenser.
It all started the night before. Our church has a monthly night of prayer where we gather as a body and worship in song, pray together and encourage each other. Well, this particular night was markedly moving. The Spirit had laid on the leaders speaking some of the same convictions that had been haunting my heart the past few weeks about what it looks like to truly embody the gospel in our southern, thin as ice, ‘Christian’ culture of DFW. In closing, one of my pastors encouraged us to write our ‘yes’ down to God. Our ‘yes’ to wherever or whoever he was calling us to minister to. I wrote down my ‘yes’ to a people group I interact with all the time: people in my everyday encounters. So this is moms at the park, door to door solicitors, kids including my own, and people at the grocery store.
The next day my crew and I journeyed out to Target. The preschooler asked if we could get some Pez candy for her long lost Pez dispenser she had recently found, and I, in a fun mom mood, said ‘yes.’ So we roll in to the parking lot and I have the prayer night on my mind. I was determined to keep my head up and see where I might be a light (Matthew 5:14-16).
We are not even in the store yet and the kids are acting crazy. The baby won’t sit in the baby seat of the cart; she is easily wiggling out of the poorly designed seat buckle and proceeds to stand in her seat. The oldest is messing with and being intentionally irritating to the preschooler, and the toddler is in a world of his own. Then we walk in.
The behavior continues to grow and instead of being a calm rational mom, who maybe needs to just head home, I go with determination, to not only get the Pez and handful of items we need, but also to be a witness so help me!
So we turn down the pickle aisle and at this point I have given up on the baby seat and the baby is in the main cart basket, switching between screaming with glee and screaming angrily because she wants out of the cart with the other kids. The oldest is confined to the cart as well, as punishment for the increasingly provoking behavior toward the preschooler, though with the baby screaming it may more so qualify as torture. The toddler is inspecting everything we pass, and as with any good inspection, includes touching, feeling and picking up. The preschooler is just happy we are headed to the candy section next.
And might I add that this particular day was apparently Target restocking day. So on every aisle we went down, there was an employee, there to witness the increasingly elaborate circus. The pickle aisle was no exception. The toddler swipes or drops or bumps, I’m not really sure which, because I was preoccupied with the baby who is attempting to crawl out of the basket at this point, and the jar of pickles smashes to the ground; pickles, juice, glass, everywhere. The employees on hand rush to the scene as I, mortified, scoop up the baby in my arms, rush to the toddler, apologize to the employees, put the toddler in the basket and begin to roll away. At which point the toddler begins to cry because the whole ordeal scared him and we all know a toddler cry is more of a wail. So wailing toddler, then baby begins to wail because toddler is wailing and she does whatever people around her are doing. The oldest 2 are stunned and silent, perhaps I have given them the death stare at this point, not sure, it’s all a blurr.
So yea, no light shining today in Target. And as far as witness, I think I was a witness to pretty much everything but the gospel, like the exact opposite of the fruit of the Spirit. You know, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Try anger, exasperation, irritation, impatience, ugliness, harsh words, harsh touches. Gospel fail. Light fail.
But then, on the ride home, I feel the Spirit begin to press:
Yes, no light because you, by yourself, have no light to shine.
You went in thinking “I am determined to keep my head up and see where I might be a light” when you should have went in pleading “Lord, lift up my head and open my eyes to see where You will be a light through me today.”
The light is God’s light and He uses you to shine it through.
This is gospel embodiment; Him alive in me. Not me, not my gusto, or determination, or will, or spirit, or good deeds, but Him. Only Him.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 ESV)
This American individualism we live under of picking ourselves up by our bootstraps and just getting it done is foolishness. I’m sure it can accomplish a lot in the world, sure, but not in God’s kingdom. Apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:5). In God’s kingdom, anything apart from Him is sin, even if it actually turns out looking really good externally. Nothing is pleasing to Him without faith, which is total dependence on Him.
For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. (Romans 14:23b ESV)
And without faith it is impossible to please [God] (Hebrews 11:6a ESV)
So mamas, daddies, let’s lean hard into Christ; the perfecter of our faith. The One who enables us, equips us, and upholds us for every good work—be it parenting, working, witnessing, submitting, whatever. In all, every little thing, we need Him, let’s look to Him.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)