Christian life is the study and practice of learning and living the truth: to develop in wisdom, which is the meld of humility enough to learn, courage enough to try, and faith enough to keep going. Such a life leads us to know God is good, love is the way life works, and that Christ is the way to live.
So, in going shopping with my sixteen-year-old daughter and my twenty-month-old son, pre-Christmas, I’m reminded of my Christian obligation – especially wearing my “Jesus Saves” T-shirt. We too easily forget we have covenanted to love; that includes the display of the fruit of the Spirit when we are on the roads at peak hour or in the shopping mall just days from Christmas.
Here are some of the things God’s Spirit taught me:
1. Slow down. When spaces are crowded we can’t move as quick. Give up attempting to do things quickly. A healthy level of resignation is helpful. Being highly strung and goal-oriented will only lead to stress, frustration, and anger.
2. Be patient. Patience is required if joy is to show. Often times, in crowded and hot places, we need to tell ourselves to slow down and be patient.
3. Keep a clear mind. I find that going shopping in a mind where I can focus helps when there is less space. Add a hurried mind to the frustration that comes from waiting, queuing, and having to interact with strangers and anger easily springs to the surface – if not at the shops, maybe at home later.
4. One positive strategy is good-natured humour. Make the experience more enjoyable for others in the family by enjoying their company. Being joyful rubs off on others and helps people relax, but it needs to be respectful. It’s best to let those who are stressed be stressed.
5. Compliment those working. It’s hard working in a busy and stressed environment, especially when the shopper is particularly materialistic as happens at Christmas time (ironically). Compliment them on their work. Be nice. Be kind. Use their name. Don’t add to their burden.
6. Take the time to put things back. Sometimes, in our laziness or hurry, we might put items back in the wrong spot. Someone may pick it up and think it’s a different price, and, when they have to pay a larger price, an argument may ensue.
7. Be open to being generous. Shopping with others, particularly friends and family, is an opportunity for blessing; to be generous. Be creative. And being generous means we are unconditionally giving.
8. Take a regular spiritual audit. Keeping our emotions in check is up to us. I’ve found the times I’ve successfully kept my emotions buoyant are the times I’ve remained continually emotionally aware. Ask: “Am I being patient?” “Am I being kind?”
9. Smile at the strangers – they don’t generally bite. A checked sense of joy helps lighten the mood anywhere. If we have a fake smile or try too hard it irritates people. But being ourselves we can effuse joy if we truly feel it.
10. Thank God. Most people who will read this article complain most about First World problems. I do. So, probably, do you. As we do our shopping we ought to be aware of how blessed we are to have the resources and the opportunity to shop.
One important way we glorify God as a Christian is to shop well – being patient, kind, and generous.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.