Wednesday, February 13, 2013


One morning as I was sitting in a women’s meeting at my church, I suddenly became aware that I had forgotten my driver’s license and my debit card. I don’t know what prompted this realization, unless it was the fact that my stomach was growling and I was thinking about what I would get for lunch on my way home. Sometimes our brain has a funny way of connecting our feelings with the brutal facts. As my stomach began to growl, my brain had the wherewithal to say, “Fat chance of eating on the way home. She forgot to bring any money and she’s driving without a license.” Perhaps this is when I began to fumble through my purse and realized it was true. I had no way of paying for anything to eat and I had driven to church without my driver’s license. At that point there was nothing to do, but pay attention to what was happening on the stage and worry about my lack of funds and legal permission to drive after the meeting.

Later, as I was driving home, I remembered I had rented a movie from one of those convenient vending machines they have on every corner now. The movie only cost a dollar to rent, but I find that I forget to return the movie for days, so the one dollar movie always ends up costing way more than a dollar. I’m sure that’s the idea behind renting the movie for only a dollar in the first place, to make money from suckers like me who cannot remember to return the movie on time. Anyway, I was so happy that I had remembered to return the movie as I was going to be driving past the movie vending machine on my way home. It was located right outside the neighborhood grocery store, just down the street from my home. So I could easily stop by, return the movie within the proper timeframe and only pay the original dollar for the movie. I was very proud of myself for remembering, even though it was a very small accomplishment.

I parked my car just across from the vending machine and happily returned my movie rental. I then decided I should go inside the grocery store and pick up a few items I needed for the night’s meal. I grabbed a cart and made my way through the store, picking up various items, meats, veggies, etc. I think I was even humming to myself because I was having a pretty good day. The morning meeting at church had been both inspirational and encouraging. It was a great start to my day.

When I finished shopping I went up to one of those do-it-yourself-checkout registers where you scan all the items yourself and then pay. As I was just beginning to sort through my items, a friendly clerk walked up and said, “May I help you? We’re not busy. Let me do this for you, ma’am.”

“Okay,” I said. I just stood back and let her scan away. Then suddenly my brain once again warned me, “REMINDER! You have no debit card or driver’s license. Oh, and you also have no checkbook or cash. How do you intend to pay for all the groceries?” Your brain can be very annoying sometimes. Why didn’t it choose to remind me outside of the store instead of after the clerk had begun scanning all my items? You call this a brain?

Suddenly I went into panic mode. I began to frantically search through my purse for any means to pay for the groceries, but I came up empty. It’s hard to know what to say at a moment when you’re purchasing lots of merchandise, and yet, you have absolutely no way to pay for it. I paused for a moment, and then I just blurted out politely, “Excuse me, ma’am.”

“Yes?” she replied, while still scanning the items.

“Um, I regret to inform you that I just discovered I have forgotten my debit card and my cash. I actually have no money on me to pay for my groceries.” Then I just smiled a half smile and twisted my face into a look that says, “Please don’t grab the microphone and announce this to the whole store!”

“Oh, I see,” said the clerk.

We stood for a moment and just stared at one another. Those moments always seem to last for an eternity. She’s wondering what kind of idiot comes into the store to shop with no money of any kind and I’m also wondering what kind of idiot comes into the store to shop with no money of any kind?

“So what do you want to do?” she asked, as she began scanning the items to take them out of the register.

“Well, I just live down the street, very close by,” I replied quietly. “I guess I could just run home and grab my debit card and come back and pay for my groceries. Would that be okay?”

The woman just stared at me, blinking her eyes several times. I’m not sure what that meant, but she seemed to be trying to decide whether I would actually come back to the store. Then she asked, “Will it take more than fifteen minutes for you to return?”

I thought that was a curious question. I didn’t realize there was some sort of deadline for going home and returning back to the store again. I guess I had crossed a line now and new rules were in play.

“Yes,” I replied. “I’m sure I can make it back within fifteen minutes. As I said, I live very nearby, but why is it important that I return within fifteen minutes?”

“Well, you’ve got meat in your cart and we’re not allowed to keep the meat out of the freezer section for more than fifteen minutes,” she explained.

“Oh,” I answered. I had never heard of this rule before. I have probably driven around for way more than fifteen minutes, stuck in traffic with meat in my car from the grocery store and yet, I’m still alive. I guess this was the grocery store rule that I was now obliged to obey. “Well I assure you I can make it back within fifteen minutes,” I answered with confidence.

“Okay,” she said. “I will just hold your cart here until you come back. But if you don’t return within fifteen minutes, I will have to return your meat to the freezer section. Then you’ll have to shop for it again when you return.”

“I understand,” I said, nodding my head. Perish the thought! I didn’t like the idea that they would return my meat and someone else could actually grab the meat I had so carefully selected for my meal. This was added pressure for me to make it back in time to keep my selected meat and to keep it out of the hands of complete strangers. I was up to the challenge.

I left the store and jumped into my car. I bolted out of the parking lot like I had been shot out of a cannon. I felt like the clerk was standing there with my cart holding a stopwatch. I had to make it back within the allotted time or I would face disgrace and perhaps never be able to show my face in that store again. The pressure was on!

I raced to my house, opening the garage door with my remote as soon as I was in range. I left the car running and dashed into the house, hunting frantically for my license and my debit card. I found them just where I had left them, sitting on my desk in my office. I also grabbed some cash, and a credit card, just to be able to show the clerk I had multiple ways of paying. As I turned to head back to the store I remembered my puppy, Indy was still in his kennel. He had been in there while I had gone to my meeting and I knew he was more than ready to go outside. I dashed upstairs, skipping steps as I went. I opened the door to Indy’s kennel and commanded him to get downstairs as fast as he could go. Of course, he looked at me like I was completely crazy, but he complied and he quickly bounded down the stairs. Obviously, he was totally oblivious to the "Fifteen Minute Rule." I let him outside and dashed back to my running car. I had no more time to waste. Indy would have to wait until I returned to feed him and let him back inside. I’m sure he would understand the “Fifteen Minute Rule” once I explained it to him.

I made it back to the store with time to spare. I ran up to the same clerk. She was still standing by my cart and seemed surprised to see me back so soon.

“You made it!” she said.

“Yes, as I said, I live very nearby,” I answered. “I have a debit card, a credit card and cash to pay with. Did you have to return my meat to the freezer?”

“No,” she said with a smile. “You made it back within the fifteen minutes. So your meat is safe.”

As she began scanning the items again I caught my breath and felt relief that I would be taking home the meat I originally selected. I had made it within the allotted time. I was very proud, even though, once again, it was a very small accomplishment.

I proudly paid for my groceries and slowly pushed my cart out to the car. The drive home was much more relaxed this time around. There, in the quiet of my car, I started thinking about how much pressure we sometimes bring on ourselves by our own actions or lack of actions. It was my fault that I didn’t have a way to pay for my groceries and my fault for not remembering that I didn’t have a way to pay. It was also my fault that I decided I had to make it back within the fifteen allotted minutes. So what if they had returned my meat to the freezer and I had to go and pick it out again? Would that have been the end of the world? I would have had to go through the agony of re-selecting my meat. Was that really as bad as all that? Of course not.

Often we create confusion, chaos and stress in our lives just by being careless, thoughtless or just not using wisdom. We heap pressure on ourselves by getting so busy we don’t even know what we have and what we don’t have. In addition, we take on all the extra little rules that others throw at us, even when we know we don’t have to. We don’t think things through. We just react. “Fifteen minutes? I have to return in fifteen minutes?” We heap one pressure on top of another pressure until we end up exploding, usually on those closest to us.

Don’t let life make you jump through unnecessary loopholes. Stop and think. Is it really worth the stress? If I don’t make this deadline, will it be the end of the world? Often there are real deadlines we miss because we’re trying to meet unrealistic deadlines we’ve placed on ourselves. Why do we do this to ourselves? Life is busy enough without the added stress and pressure of trying to meet everyone’s expectations and rules.

“So don’t put up with anyone pressuring you in details of diet, worship services, or holy days. All those things are mere shadows cast before what was to come; the substance is Christ.” Colossians 2:16-17 (MSG)

Don’t be pressured by others. Others will try to sidetrack you with their rules, deadlines or agendas, but stay focused on what is important. The substance is Christ. 


  1. Very funny and so true. So often we pressure ourselves. Thanks for reminding me of what is really important!


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