Every once in a while, I entertain the idea of actually sharing more than a smattering of pictures and little tidbits of what we have been up to. Believe it or not, there are lots of things going on in my head. These thoughts of sharing are usually very easily dismissed for the sake of other things that I could be doing. But here I find myself under the glow of the Christmas tree ready to pound out a lesson I’ve learned in hopes that it might encourage someone else.
Recently, I was challenged to do the right thing.
It wasn’t in a large effort of feeding the hungry or clothing the needy.
It wasn’t in a wide-influencing action in some monumental effort that the masses would see.
It came in the form of a Kohl’s delivery box on my porch.
I recently made an online purchase during the busy hustle-and-bustle Black shopping. A week or so later when my order was delivered, an item was included that was not part of my order. This item was in itself much more expensive than everything else I ordered put together.
It was a King-Sized Flannel Sheet Set retailing $119.99. (Yes, I’m well aware that prices are marked up and you should never pay full price for anything at Kohl’s.) It was not included on my packing slip or billing statement. It was simply put in the wrong box and delivered to our doorstep.
As I contemplated on how to handle this, multiple battles raged in front of me and in my mind.
“Ohhhh…..those are so awesome, mom! I want them on my bed!” (the boys have yet to understand that bedding comes in different sizes). “They won’t fit on your bed guys….but they could go on our bed or the guestbed which are queens….because flannel sheets always shrink a little.”
“Well, they are the ones that messed up. Their loss, my gain.”
“I could easily sell a new set of bedsheets on an online garage sale site for $20”
“I could return them saying that they were a gift and I could still get store credit to spend on something else for us or…..even on items I could donate for others.”
“This is a huge nationwide company. They will never notice this mistake. No one will lose their job over the loss of this item. This actual item cannot be returned to the rightful person that ordered it. No one even knows that it arrived at our house by mistake.”
Oh, I had lots of justifications for how I could handle this.
But in the pit of my stomach, or more accurately – by the prompting of the Holy Spirit in my life, I knew the right thing to do would be to take time out of my schedule and return them to the store just for the sake of doing what was right. This item was not mine.
You have to understand I have a history of taking things that did not belong to me. I actually struggled with this A LOT during my pre-adolescent and adolescent years. Never from retailers or stores. Probably worse….I would take or keep items from the homes of friends. Nail polish. Lotions. Jewelry. Little items….but still I knew what I was doing. It was not innocent and it was somewhat addictive for quite a few years. I wanted what was not mine….and I occasionally took it. I came to terms with making some of this right even just a couple of years ago when I discovered a ring that I had taken from someone. I knew exactly whose jewelry box I had taken it from. It had probably been in my possession for almost 20 years. But as a result of trying to keep in step with living for Jesus….I was feeling a sense of conviction that I needed to admit what I had done to this person, return it, and apologize. So I tracked down her address and did so. It was embarrassing. But also rather freeing being able to sense the Spirit working in my heart and pushing and enabling me to do something that silenced the justifications I had in my mind for not doing anything.
And you have to understand that this was not my first run-in with receiving something that was not mine from a large retailer at the time of holiday shopping. I shoplifted (accidentally!) an item about 10 years ago. It was one of those large plastic storage bins for storing wrapping paper. It was the day after Christmas when everything was marked down. I had bought a few other items, but I had this container underneath my cart. It was a very busy shopping day and it was snowing quite hard. I was halfway sludging through the parking lot to my car when I realized that I had not paid for the container. I immediately whipped my cart around to go back in. As I did so, the wind and snow that had been at my back, now pelted me hard in the face – so hard that I could hardly even open my eyes. I whipped my cart back around again. I was not going to battle the weather for this. I would have to stand in a long customer service return line. They would likely look at me like I was crazy. And after all, it was their job to notice that I had a large item underneath my cart. I quickly and fairly easily determined that I was NOT going to make this right. Even though I knew it was wrong. We still store our wrapping paper in that container. And make comments about how I stole it. (No, I do not feel convicted about needing to return it and somehow pay for it at this point in time) (But it does serve as a constant reminder to me about my embracing dishonesty for the sake of convenience.)
And so, here I found myself again with an item that was not mine. This time, it was not an item that I had actually even wanted…..but nonetheless, it was quite easy to justify that I could still easily gain from it by selling it or trying to return it for credit.
But these days, my desire is to walk in step with the Spirit of God…..and when I know He is pushing me to do something….I aim to listen and, well……actually do it.
So, a few mornings later when I had little bit of time, I made my way to the store. I still battled thoughts of thinking how nice it would be to have a little more money to spend by returning it for store credit. But I knew it would not be honest of me to do. At one point on the drive, I even audibly repeated to myself, “I will do the right thing.….I will do the right thing……I will do the right thing……I will do the right thing.” I was still clearly in the process of convincing myself that I was actually going to do the right thing. I imagined how the sales associate would gush over my honesty and would award me with a giftcard….or at least balloons that might drop from the ceiling recognizing and rewarding me for my efforts. I continued to talk myself through this reminding myself that I was doing the right thing…..for the sake of doing the right thing. Dear goodness, I should not still need incentive and affirmation for doing the right thing!
I stood in the customer service line. Upon my turn at the desk, I briefly explained that I must have accidentally received this item in a shipment and I was just bringing it back. The sales associate curtly said, “Thanks. Is there anything else I can do for you today?” I smiled and said, “Nope.”
And that was that.
My point in all of this…….
Doing the right thing is not always easy. Its often much easier and more convenient to not do the right thing. I don’t share this to receive high fives for being honest in this small way. And I somewhat dread putting some of my past struggles out there. And I even battle whether this is worth typing out…..I know lots of people who are dealing with actual hard stuff these days. This was not a trial of difficulty.
But here’s the thing…..I find myself strengthened by this somewhat trivial little happening. Through this experience and several other recent things, I see God working in my life in the form of progress, or we can even get real Christian terminology fancy and say that I recognize the sanctification process happening in my heart and life. He’s allowing opportunities for me to work some of the selfish junk out. He’s allowing me to know Him and hear Him….and then respond. And that in itself feels good to know that I am growing and being worked on by the One who loves me the most. Painful, at times. But still good. I mess up and get tripped up over things that I shouldn’t, but until I take my last breath, I hope and pray that He keeps working on me and allowing me opportunities to hear Him and respond in trust and faith. My heart’s desire is to glorify God and share the love of Jesus in all that I do.
This journey of life looks different for everyone. He calls to each of us and works in our hearts and lives in different ways every day. Sometimes it is subtle and private. Sometimes it is sudden and big. Sometimes we may fight it. Sometimes it hurts and we can't make sense of it. And sometimes, it shows up on our doorstep in an unforeseen and unwanted package.