Falling Short and Finding God at the Dollar General

Last week a woman walked into our church in the middle of our small group. As usual, she asked to speak to the pastor. Our church is located at a major intersection of a national highway so we get a lot of people who walk in looking for help. This particular woman had a small child. Dale asked her to wait while we finished the small group. After group, Dale informed me that myself and someone else would be accompanying her to the Dollar General to help her purchase a predetermined amount of food and necessities.
Okay, let me just go ahead upfront and confess something to you. I was not excited by this opportunity for service. I probably made a face and might have said something very unholy like, “Do I have to?”. I’ll explain why my spirit didn’t leap with abounding joy at the chance to serve Jesus by serving another. I have never had a good experience with this sort of thing (not that your enjoyment should determine when you will serve Jesus). It is uncomfortable, awkward, humbling for all of us and well it makes my stomach curl up into a very tight knot. This time was no different.We start walking around the store. The woman is asking me if she can get this or that. We try to help her find things. She keeps mentioning how much I am approved to spend. She continues to ask if she can get this or that.I add it up…it’s like I am the only person that can add numbers together. I feel like the wizard of Oz and she is Dorothy only with a

We start walking around the store. The woman is asking me if she can get this or that. We try to help her find things. She keeps mentioning how much I am approved to spend. She continues to ask if she can get this or that.I add it up…it’s like I am the only person that can add numbers together. I feel like the wizard of Oz and she is Dorothy only with a 19-month-old little boy instead of a small fury dog. And instead of a ride home, she is asking for the meager contents of the Dollar General and I am denying her with menace and fire all the while cowering behind my very expensive Nike shoes ( I do a lot of exercise. It is a ministry. I take care of my feet- but my need to justify that to you is another issue for another blog :))

I have thought before that perhaps it is a humiliating experience for these poor people as well. I have tried to imagine having to humble yourself to come and ask others for food and diapers. I have tried to feel what it must be like to be reliant on the kindness of a stranger to feed your child. As a mother, I can really feel moved by their plight. But let me move you back to what is happening at the Dollar General ( and what has happened to me before).
We continue to move about the store, her asking, me continuing to add and report the remaining amount. I honestly try to not look at what we are purchasing because I know it will invariably lead me to judging this person. And tonight it is very hard as we’ve selected all sorts of things and we are at a whopping $5.00 left for food. I wander behind feeling pretty low about myself because I can’t get behind this “labor of love”. I know I am being used. I knew when we got into the car that this person had told Dale and myself whatever sad story they thought would guilt us out of some help. It happens every time. It is happening now and it is rubbing me. And the rub hurts somewhere on the inside. I am ashamed that I feel disgusted by the whole thing- the lies, the manipulation and most of all by the fact that I see myself here. I see me and Jesus. I know this could be a depiction of me on so many occasions. He could write this blog about me100 times over. And this isn’t a new thought but sometimes old thoughts can come back around and burrow their way into a very soft and vulnerable place in your heart. And tonight this thought finds a place in me. And I realize why I am so bothered. I can clearly see in this moment how far apart Jesus and I are. I never had illusions that people would confuse me with Christ. But sometimes you get this glimpse of the vast chasm that lies between who you are and who He is. I know I am bad and rotten and selfish to the core but some days the Holy Spirit helps you to see how deep the pit goes. It is bottomless in case you were wondering.

I am standing in the store realizing that I can and do use Jesus all the time and He never gets upset at being used. He never feels violated by my attempted manipulations. And He never takes offense at my hollow promises. He doesn’t feel this pressing need to tell me that I am not fooling Him. He doesn’t have a driving desire to be right. But I do. I have all these things and I realize it is not the woman but my own sin making me sick.

I’ll finish the story. There is a snickering friend of the woman who sobers up when I see her laughing. I assume it’s at me, playing the part of the fool. There is a nicer car than Dale’s and people waiting. There are pleas for prayer and promises of a return…(“I’m coming to church.”). But I know better. They say it every time. And besides those words are pretty familiar to my lips as well…maybe not the church bit but well “I am…” or “I will…”. Just fill in the blank.
At this point I am pretty much just slinking around. In terms of Amber, that was a pretty stinky day: A failed attempt at kindness and mercy, a gentle rebuke by the Holy Spirit and gnawing truth all over me. However, spiritually I gained so much: A deeper appreciation for my Savior, an ever growing awareness of my sin and an invitation to draw closer to Him.

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