Flesh at the Grocery

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please,” Galatians 5:16-17.

While at the grocery late this afternoon, a young man and woman in their early to mid-twenties was in line in front of me. There was only one line open for checkout, so I fell into place behind these folks, who were also behind some other folks. I had in my hands one gallon of milk and a few bananas. Both carts in front of me were nearly full with groceries to be checked out by the cashier.

The young man closest to me looked at my items and I. He looked back at his cart. He then looked at me again. He didn’t say anything, but it appeared he was thinking about offering me the spot ahead of him as soon as that cartload was checked through. I didn’t give away my interpretation or expectation of his glances.

The cart full of items cleared in front of him and he looked at me one more time. He then, as if changing his mind, proceeded to become Mr. Cool as he unloaded his cart like the whole world could wait on him. His behavior was unexpected, but not a surprise to me. I have done the same kind of things when I walk in the flesh, especially at his age. He was just showing his insecurities by showing off for his girlfriend/wife, the cashier and myself as he slowly flipped each item from his cart to the conveyor one at a time.

In haste, his lady friend grabbed the two bottles of wine from the cart herself, and placed them at the front of the conveyor. She was apparently underage or without an ID, because she called Mr. Cool to the cash register to buy the booze. He strutted his stuff to the front, only to be told the cashier was underage and the young man would have to wait for the manager to buy the wine from. He stood there boasting into the air of his ability to buy alcohol as he waited. The manager came and carded him (to his expressed surprise), before selling him the wine. The young man then strolled back to the rear of the cart to continue flipping the groceries from his cart onto the conveyor belt.

Now in all honesty, I was asking the Lord how I could bless this guy from the moment I realized I might get placed ahead of him in line. I wasn’t doing that to perhaps “repay” the guy, but to take my mind off of expectations that, if unmet, could be a source of frustration for me. So there I am praying for maybe ten minutes stuck behind Joe Cool. I realize I am a little put off by his behavior, but still praying with the desire to be salt and light for everyone involved (now having two more people in line behind me, his lady friend and the cashier all waiting on him as he does his thing). As the young man empties the final item he strolls back to the cashier to proudly swipe his debit/credit card across the payment terminal. Wham! He’s done. He is now acting like it is a good thing for all of us he is there to pay.

Now that our hero has paid, he comes back to his cart to pull it through to his wife. That allows the grocery-holding lady behind me and myself to put our items on the empty conveyor (It is 18 degrees outside, and my hand is fairly cold now from also holding the gallon of cold milk for ten minutes). As Joe Cool pulls his cart past the cashier, we all hear, “Whoa, there’s one more item in the cart we didn’t get.” Joe looks disappointedly at his wife, “Do you really need that gravy,” he asks. “Yes. It is part of a recipe,” she replies. He hands it to the cashier, who by now is showing signs of eagerness to get the guy through the line and care for the other customers who have waited patiently in line.

Buy the Gravy

The cashier looks at me with gravy in his hand and says to the man and I, “I’ll check him (me) out first.” It was then that the Lord said to me, “Buy the gravy for the guy.” Now keep in mind I have withstood the temptation to express frustration while standing still for ten minutes or more holding a gallon of cold milk on an unusually cold winter day. In the split second I was contemplating the prompting in my head, the wife began saying to Mr. Cool, “Oh don’t buy that if you have to out it on your card (as if to mean such a small purchase was silly to put on a card)!”

I now realized Mr. Cool had no cash. He was a little embarrassed that he didn’t have 37 cents. I was paying cash. The cashier set the gravy down while the couple contemplated their next move. The cashier scanned my milk and bananas and I paid for them. I didn’t buy the gravy. I sinned because I acted on another thought in my head, “Suites him right after the way he has acted.” I walked away defeated, having now finished in the flesh what I began in the Spirit. Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things (cold milk and inconsiderate behavior) in vain – if indeed it was in vain? So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?” Galatians 3:3-5 (parenthesis mine).