When my mom and I go grocery shopping together, we often banter back and forth about what we should buy. Sometimes we’re joking, because I would never want to purchase the 15-pack of Spam cans at Costco. But sometimes I think we’re serious, when we find a new treat (Fudge-covered coconut Oreos, to offer one, totally hypothetical example) and debate trying it.
Maybe we think of life as a big grocery store. We come to the store with a particular list of “needs” and “wants” and we think we can pick the products that most suit us. We can try something new or stick with what we know is good.
But the Christian life means that God wants to go shopping with us at this grocery store. And here’s the best part: He offers to pay the bill.
It’s a great deal, but there’s a “catch”: When God pays the bill, he also gets to fill the cart. And that’s actually really hard.
After all, we came to the store with our list of wants and needs and desires and dreams, and we quickly discover that God doesn’t intend to buy us those things. Sometimes God has different things in mind.
Sometimes it seems as if God intentionally picks out the most expensive product and puts it in the cart. We balk, saying, “I can’t afford that; let’s get the cheaper one.” But we forget that we’re not paying for it. If God places it in the cart, he’s going to buy it.
Other times, maybe, it seems to us as if we ought to be done shopping, but God is wandering the aisles without picking anything. We drag our feet alongside like moody toddlers, pouting that we can’t be done already or bemoaning the fact that our cart is still empty.
We pick up coconut-fudge Oreos and God says no, so we put them back on the shelf and despair. Then—much to our dismay—God picks up several jars of pickles and places them in the cart. This is especially troubling, because why, God, would you buy pickles when you could have bought me Oreos? Pickles are not what I wanted. It doesn’t make sense; I don’t even like pickles.
I’ve been in the grocery store with God for a while now, and I can’t deny it: My shopping cart is full. You would think I’d be ready to check out, but I’m not. I’m not ready because right now it seems that my cart is full of corn and mayonnaise and cherries and white bread and ham and a lot of really expensive pickles.
Even though I know people who would be delighted to have a shopping cart full like this, I still don’t want it. I hate those foods. I hate them, and I’m not sure why God picked them for me. They aren’t at all what I wanted or dreamed or even what I prayed for.
When we get caught up challenging God’s choices, though, we never actually get out of the grocery store and we never get to taste those foods that he picked. We bottom out—right there in the middle of the store—and suddenly all of life seems hopeless because pickles really do seem that bad. We spend so much time fighting and screaming at God in the canned-goods aisle—and we never even make it to check out.
But God is patient and he’s willing to wait a very long time, until we’ve exhausted our energy and our protests. He waits until we finally remember the reason we came to this store: We came to let him buy for us, and to trust that even pickles can be very good.