Recently, any spare brain space has been dominated by thoughts of hidden forms of judgementalism and how unnatural the practise of grace can be. Lessons learned at the thrift shop, coupled with an amazing series on total forgiveness at church right now has brought about a desire for greater freedom in this whole area of grace.
What I really want is for people who bug me to change, but the other thing the preacher-guy said that stuck long and fast in my head is that the common denominator in all our problems is the "me" factor. I'm in all of my problems, every single one. So it seemed sensible to try and redirect my telepathic messages from the thrift shop legalists back to "me" and see what I could do to contribute in a more positive way. Enter: Pumpkin loaf. I thought I'd bake an extra loaf, slice it up and put it on a plate left over from my bridal party (a plate I really don't need back, and I'm tired of seeing kids eat toast off of: "Happy 25th Anniversary!"...). I wrote a little note for the thrift shop volunteers and tucked it in with the loaf. With two kids filling the double stroller, I balanced the plate of loaf and my handbag up top of the sun shade that we clearly wouldn't be needing that day. We strolled through 80 mile an hour winds past the church, over the crooked sidewalk, past the other church, through the parking lot, over the footbridge, and into the parking lot of the thrift shop.
That's when the plate fell.
Pumpkin loaf with shards. Didn't seem all that gracious. I considered stealing a 25 cent plate and transferring the loaf over... but there was still the risk of razory bits of "Happy 25th Anniversary!" clinging to the underside of the bread so I thought better of it. It also struck me as pretty ironic to go snitching things in the thrift store when what I wished they would do is stop treating their customers with such suspicion. Well, I'd have to try to behave graciously instead and in this case, that appeared to include keeping the pumpkin loaf to myself.
I did a quick scour of the place for vintage bits of this and that for my sewing projects. Then the kids and I went to pay. As I approached the cash out, the woman made a comment about my bag; something to the tune of, "Oh! She's got a bag like that too!"
"Bag like what?" , I had to know.
That's when it came out about the volunteer who had come in, toting one of my roomy bags-for-Darfur and was asked to leave her "backpack" at the front, lest she should go about stealing their precious, dented donations. Well, it seemed like an oppurtunity to me. So I launched into how disappointed I had been to hear this tale, how sure I was that neither of the two of them would ever treat a customer so suspiciously, how this was a place all about God and his love, and that if people chose to sin by stealing, wasn't that between them and God? Wasn't it wonderful that they donated their time, and could spend the day making people feel welcome and happy to be in such a place of good service?
The women half-nodded in sort-of-confused, token agreement. Then with a toss of the head, pointed out a customer from a different religious perspective, and leaned closer to me. "You have to watch those people"; she shared with me conspiritively, "I once saw a woman leave the store with things in her hand that she never paid for. Why would people come into a place like this, that's for missions, and steal things when the prices are already so low?"
Her partner nodded vigorously.
"Yes, you sure have to watch those kind of people."
And with that, I gathered up my planks and splinters, my shards, crumbs and the kids.
With my addiction to thrift shopping, I imagine that God will have many more oppurtunities to try and help me work my way through this whole grace thing.
So far, I mostly have stuff to haul around.