Continuing on with our Christmas series as announced earlier, we’re sharing with our readers something that’s not only special to us, but that we hope may be a source of blessing and encouragement for you. Through the end of the year, we’re sharing Christmas-themed excerpts from my book, Right Side Up Thinking in an Upside Down World, so here we go with this week’s selection, Ambushed at Walmart”. . .
Phones these days are incredible. Mine has little “notification” beeps and tones built into it to alert me and tell me who’s calling. That way, I get to prepare myself for the conversation, or decline it altogether. Maybe God should have made joy so that it comes with an advance beeper. Without it, people are vulnerable to having joy just sneak up and pounce on them without warning, and its impact can be extensive. Followers of Jesus are particularly at risk, and especially so around Christmas.
Let me illustrate. In spite of the wonders of Amazon and the internet, at times we’re still faced with having to actually go inside a store during Christmas. I know … that fact alone is sobering enough, but it gets worse. Sometimes it involves Walmart—and on a weekend. Ducking in to grab an item is challenging enough at any point, but Walmart at Christmas is different. In our annual struggle to survive the snares of Christmas as redefined by Hallmark and Hollywood, it is one of those venues we try to avoid. In spite of that, I was forced to enter the lair of the retail giant in the midst of Christmas mania.
Not My First Rodeo ~
Not being a naïve first-timer, I prepared myself. I gathered up my spiritual armor, prayed for courage, double-checked the status of my smart phone batteries, and synched our “Evernote” lists. Walmart was a place for holiday warfare, not for serene “visions of sugar plums” and Christmas joy, so I headed out with resolute determination. My “anti-commercialized holiday” attitude was primed with a finely tuned critical spirit—a vital asset in approaching the battlefield itself. My list of instantaneous judgments was locked and loaded, ready for the usual set of enemy combatants, oppressive crowds of insensitive shoppers jamming the aisles, people who park their cars crooked and take up extra spaces, and stock people who fail to put out enough of the main thing I’m going there to get. And complicating it even more was the disturbing awareness that my presence was supporting the materialism and commercialization of everything spiritual about Christmas. I could hear the voice of John the Baptist in my head yelling,“Hypocrite!”The combination condensed into my classic “Christmas shopping frown.” It was etched into my countenance with a clarity that would have made Ebenezer Scrooge envious.
Making the trek from the hinder regions of the parking lot, my Christmas frown and I were busily reviewing a list of unforeseen disasters that could be lurking ahead, when a young mother heading back to her car caught my eye and interrupted my negative reverie. She had one of those baby carrying gizmos hanging from the crook in her arm with a little blanket thrown over it to protect her little treasure from the cold wind. I noticed right away that something wasn’t quite right about her. Given the pervasive atmosphere of holiday urgency, she looked unreasonably relaxed, and her mood looked way too bright and happy. “She’s just young and inexperienced,” I concluded. “When she’s older and more mature, she’ll be able to exhibit a more appropriate aura of Walmart Christmas misery.”
Just as I approached, she paused, lifted a corner of the blanket, and initiated a little peeping game with her baby. Tiny laughter rose from the warmth of the carriage in response to the mother’s smiling face and happy tones, and a totally unanticipated thing happened. With no warning at all, watching that random slice of life unfold triggered something surprisingly powerful, and completely contradictory to everything else inside me at the time. It wasn’t like a distinguishable memory or specific set of emotions—just an instant and overwhelming awareness of what a thousand little moments It wasn’t like a distinguishable memory or specific set of emotions—just an instant and overwhelming awareness of what a thousand little moments like that have meant to me over the years. A sense of pure joy erupted right there in the middle of the Walmart parking lot. In spite of all the seasonal pressure, and the malicious irritations lurking inside the store, my carefully constructed “pre-Walmart entry” Christmas frown disintegrated on the spot. I lost all control of my “burdened shopper” persona, and almost laughed out loud.
See what I mean? I was totally unprepared—ambushed. That’s why joy should come with warnings. It can make sudden, uncontrolled alterations to your whole point of view and dismantle all your defenses, and it’s hard to shake when it happens. Inside the store, the crowd of Christmas shoppers was doing what Christmas shoppers do—dodging obstacles, grabbing potential purchases, fighting kids with Olympic skills at snatching impulse items, all the while trying to jockey their carts into a winning position in the checkout line. All that was normal and predictable, but that day it became noticeably less irritating than usual.
An Unexpected Transformation ~
“Maybe,” I thought, “that little mom has somehow affected the whole store.” Then I noticed something else I hadn’t really thought about before. The bustling crowd wasn’t just a crowd anymore. They all had individual faces, and I was suddenly captivated by how unique they were. I looked from face to face and thought, “Every face in this crowd can say, ‘He came to Bethlehem for me.’” The knowledge wasn’t new, but the overwhelming awareness of the love involved was. “We’re not a crowd to Him. He didn’t come to die for us in general. Every face is profoundly significant to Him.”
On second thought, maybe it’s better if joy sneaks up on us once in a while, especially if it screws up our well-prepared Grinch impersonations. A dose of Christmas joy hiding in a baby’s laugh, and a fresh sense of wonder at God’s love in the aisle at Walmart, might be a Christmas surprise we never forget.
… To read more, the e-book version is just $1.99 on Amazon now, making it easily affordable for nearly everyone – and possibly an idea for an extra little stocking stuffer. You don’t even need a Kindle reader to access it. E-book readers are included on most computers, tablets, and smartphones, but if you don’t have one, the free app can easily be downloaded directly from the Amazon site for the book on almost any device.
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to Tweet & Share from the pull quotes below. Each quote links directly back to this article through Twitter.
- “ . . . my classic “Christmas shopping frown” was etched into my countenance with a clarity that would have made Ebenezer Scrooge envious.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to tweet)
- “ … watching that random slice of life unfold triggered something surprisingly powerful, and completely contradictory to everything else inside me at the time.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “I was suddenly captivated by how unique they were… Every face in the crowd can say, ‘He came to Bethlehem for me.’ We’re not a crowd to (Jesus). He didn’t come to die for us in general. Every face is profoundly significant to Him.” @GallaghersPen (Click here Tweet)
Look for all the Christmas Stories and more in Ron’s book, “Right Side Up Thinking in an Upside Down World ~ Looking at the World through the Lens of Biblical Truth”
Also, check out the Kindle e-version for just $1.99. Another stocking stuffer idea … just one that’s in the ‘cloud’! (No Kindle device needed!)
Click HERE for details …
Copyright © 2017 Ron Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
Ron & Diane, Sometimes I’m late reading your articles, but, i never delete them and love everyone of them.. I know this one was before Christmas, but, the story of the little mother and baby at Walmart makes me think of how precious time is, and how we need to treasure every minute God gives us. I try to help people wherever I am, but, I wanted to thank you for always opening my eyes to a lot of things. God bless you both and look forward to seeing more articles. With love! Gayle
Thanks so much, Gayle. You talk about being late reading, and I relate to that because I’m so often slow in getting my responses back to wonderful and encouraging comments like yours. Thank you for your prayers and for the way you live out your faith. In this ever darkening and chaotic culture around us every light shines brighter.