I walk the aisles of an unfamiliar grocery store in the town where we’re vacationing. It’s strange how places have their scents — this one is sunscreen and mangoes and salt. I pass the deli and the cereal aisle, the ice cream coolers, and the rows of egg cartons. Eventually, I find the school supply section. It’s small, as if such pursuits in a beach town are to be hidden rather than encouraged.
I stand in front of the spiral notebooks, clean and new. Small worlds of possibility bound with wire. In my eagerness I reach too quickly for a notebook, and in doing so I clumsily brush the edge of a box of light bulbs sitting just to the left of it. I watch, slow motion, as they tumble like a bird shot by a hunter and land with a thud on the linoleum floor.
The box is solid, and I can’t see the bulbs inside so at first I hope. Surely they’re fine, I tell myself. It wasn’t that hard of a bump. It wasn’t that far of a fall. But when I pick up the little package I hear it, the sound of shattered pieces on the inside. I shake it just to be sure like an inquisitive baby would a rattle, and it sounds like wind chimes. I cannot appreciate the lovely noise. It only sounds like fear and failure to me.
I stand for a moment, notebook in one hand and box in the other. Then I march, determinedly, to the customer service desk as if I’m a student on the way to the principal’s office. I have always been a rule follower and on the single occasion I got sent to the office (for chatting with my boyfriend in the hallway long after the bell had rung), I walked with my head lowered and shoulders slumped. My posture is the same as I approach the counter and hold out the box, the source of such shame.
The young woman behind the counter tilts her head curiously. I clear my throat and prepare for my confession, sure I will be sent to the grocery store version of jail. “I knocked this over, and it broke,” I say, finally daring to meet the eyes of my judge and jury.
She pauses for a moment and considers me, standing there in such a state of sad penance. Then she laughs right out loud, a sound like the waves against the shore, and exclaims, “Girl, we all make mistakes every day. You don’t have to pay anything.” I stand there, shocked and grateful before stammering a thank you and backing away slowly as if she might change her mind. Then quite unexpectedly, tears come to my eyes.
I consider why this small exchange might evoke such a response, and I realize it’s because I go around damaging fragile things quite a lot. Don’t we all? Oh, we don’t mean to most of the time. But we are all in need of extravagant, unending grace.
As I make my way toward my husband, who is waiting patiently beneath a palm tree outside, I know already that I will write about this experience in my notebook the next morning. I will record the words of the customer service woman, a prophetess in a grocery store uniform. “We all make mistakes every day,” she said, “You don’t have to pay anything.”
I will breathe another sigh of relief when I revisit her proclamations.
I will thank the One who says those same words to me.
I will pray for the courage to say them to others.
Michele Morin says
Breathing a sigh of relief along with you, Holley, for all the many ways that grace pours down over all my bull-in-a-china-shop moments. And it occurs to me that if you had never admitted your mistake, hiding it in fear, you would not have received the grace, and may have left that store carrying guilt to record in your notebook. Maybe that’s why it’s called “coming clean!”
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
Don’t you love how God teaches us His grace-filled lessons in the most obscure places? Even the grocery store aisle can usher us into His presence. Oh how we all long to hear God laugh and say, “Girl, we all make mistakes everyday. You don’t have to pay anything.” The awesome news is that our mistakes have already been paid for by Jesus. His death on the cross took care of it all….every last little sin. Therefore there is now NO condemnation. (Romans 8:1). What a great declaration of grace and forgiveness. I laughed at you wondering about the grocery store version of jail. I had visions of you shucking corn for customers in the produce section so they could hurry on to the beach lol. Loved this post 🙂
Shucking corn for the customers, that’s so funny……. thanks for that, and for being you.
Have a blessed day,
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
Thanks for appreciating my goofy sense of humor lol.
Hope you have a great (and relaxing) weekend!!
Holley Gerth says
I have a feeling I would be terrible at shucking corn! Ha! Thanks for being here so faithfully, Bev.
Beth Williams says
God’s grace is so amazing. How He can forgive us of each simply due to the blood of Jesus & our faith in Him. I can hear God talking to us daily saying “people we all mess up.” “No one is perfect”. I forgive you go & sin no more. God has been showing me grace a lot lately. All I have to do is confess my missteps & He forgives. I would have been like you in the store. Oh no I broke them-probably have to pay for this. It was wonderful How God can show us His grace in many different way & places. This world is so sinful & in need of the saving grace of all loving God. We need to be out there helping to extend some of His grace to others. They need to know that no matter how big or small the sin they can be forgiven, loved & have grace lavished on them daily.
Thank you, I love this simplicity of this powerful story.
We expect consequences for our actions and receive grace as His upside down love turns our lives the right way up. It takes us by surprise when it’s at the grocery store but why am I constantly surprised by God’s grace? I struggle to receive it. I guess at the core I feel I don’t deserve it. And that’s the point! I don’t! Grace would be grace if we deserved it!
Holley Gerth says
Loved the posts and the comments.
Boy, do I ever stand in need of that unfailing Grace…..
So thanks, Holley, Michelle, and Bev.
I could feel your anguish, then breathed a sign of relief at the grace given words,”We all make mistakes every day.” I know I do, and when someone else does, I hope I’ll be as grace giving as the clerk. Thank-you for sharing this meaningful story with us today.
Have a blessed day all,
This is beautiful Holly, I love the way God shows us His Grace in simple moments in our everyday lives. This also teaches me that as much as God has shown us His Amazing Grace, we too need to show grace to those in our lives. We sometimes tend to accept His grace so freely, yet we don’t show it to others as freely. It is just that a Free Gift from God, and we are to give it just as freely to others, and then be amazed at how we are blessed when we do.
I really need to hear this today… Thank you, Holly.
I find so much beauty and peace knowing that His grace is in ALL of our moments, broken or whole! Thank you Jesus!
Kathy Cheek, Devotions from the Heart says
Isn’t it amazing that all the grace we need, He freely gives. What a blessing to be able to receive grace.
I like to spread the feeling of grace given to me… I went out of a store with a granola bar and forgot to pay for it , went back inside and paid. They couldn’t believe it. They asked me why? I said I am a Christian!! I wonder if they saw the grace God had given me. I am blessed this morning with your words.. I sometimes feel I don’t receive grace because I am different from many people. I have schizoaffective disorder… but I live in his grace he has continued to give me.
Thank you so much! Have a blessed day
Bless your heart! It is interesting when people are surprised by one’s honesty. In this day and age, apparently it is a lost art. Praying for you in your continued walk with Jesus!
Nancy Ruegg says
Isn’t that just like God–to toss into your day a splash of grace from a grocery store employee! And now you’ve splashed us with the same grace by sharing the story. Praise God and thank you!
Becky Keife says
Holley, I just like you a whole lot. And I like that store clerk and the way Jesus is so good to us all the time, mistakes and all. xx
Holley Gerth says
I like you a whole lot too, Becky. 🙂
Holley Gerth says
Thank you so much for reading and sharing your heart here, friends! Grateful for grace…and all of you!
Francee Strain says
Thank you for your writing. So, what I want to know is: why were the light bulbs in the school supply section? Were they waiting for the light to come on in our learning? Ha-ha.
I appreciate the analogy that you have given here. It caused me to reflect upon the times that I have had these types of experiences in stores. I have not always been offered grace. Praise God, though, I am always offered grace in the spiritual realm. I reflected further upon my experiences. These times of presenting my mistakes in front of humanity has resulted in the opportunity to share Jesus. The employees are often shocked that I have come forward to admit a mistake and take responsibility. I am then able to reply that this is what Jesus would have me do. Our mistakes and failures can be a witness to the world when we attach them to the love of Christ presiding over our humanness.
Thanks for putting your grocery store notebook to good use!