Friday night, Saffron and Dr set out for a date night attending the college wind symphony concert. Saffron wore a dress I’d bought her that day during a local thrift store shopping trip. It was a full size (and a half, even though I realize that’s not a thing) too big ensuring the dress touched her only slightly on her shoulders. I insisted she take her poncho too because those concert halls can be a bit chilly. The poncho is also too large and she refuses to put her arms in the gigantic arm holes avoiding even the possibility the super soft knit will touch her wrists. And flip-flops. She owns two pairs of adorable silver slippers but those are also big and so they tend to rub blisters on the back of her heels and wearing a band-aid is not really an option.
As I was retelling my daughter’s attire selection to another sensory momma, I noted, “It’s certainly changed the way I shop!”
In the next moment, God tapped me on the shoulder and, Y’all, I felt like He cleared His throat and said, “Shopping?”
What if you couldn’t…
Long ago, in a galaxy far away, a galaxy called Oklahoma, three girlfriends spent gobs of time together laughing and scheming and cheering each other on in life. One was pursuing her degree in education a class at a time while she earned the money for tuition working at Pottery Barn. One was a professionally trained singer who cared for her two daughters during the day and sang anywhere an audience gathered at all other times. And me, working a crazy busy job in the executive’s office of a local company while Dr was in graduate school at the University of Oklahoma (Boomer, y’all). We were together almost every moment of free time we could grab because thankfully, our husbands got along well, too. But that was a plus. Not a requirement.
For some reason I can’t remember now, all three of us were walking the empty halls of our church talking about dreams. One sharing her frustration at what she perceived to be a roadblock to reaching her teaching goal and she was trying to make it familiar to us. We totally understood, but she probably needed to fully describe her feelings as a form of external processing. Extroverts are the cutest.
She said, “You know, it’d be like if you couldn’t sing or if Robin couldn’t…”
Long. Pregnant. Pause.
While she tried to figure out what I did.
“…if Robin couldn’t SHOP.”
And there it was. One friend a teacher, one friend a singer and me, a SHOPPER.
I did really enjoy shopping. I still do.
But did that define me as a person? Is that all my friend knew about my passions? My dreams?
That I liked to SHOP???
The truth is that WAS all she knew about me. She knew in what spare time I had, I shopped. My job was NOT one of those that allowed for a whole lot of sharing. I worked 60 hours a week and carried a binder with me everywhere containing detailed schedules and contacts and information so it would be easily accessible should one of the executives call me on my Blackberry (with the roller ball and keyboard, y’all) to question or change something on those detailed schedules.
At one point during those four years, I found myself getting up at 3:30 am to get in an hour of cardio, 45 minutes of weight training, working 10-12 hours, counting every calorie I consumed and every calorie I expended, squeezing in an ab class at lunch, and riding the bike after work while I watched the news.
Desperately, I was trying to externally control the only thing I had any authority over, my body.
Not surprisingly, I ended up with heart palpitations and an anxiety attack or two before wearing a heart monitor for 30 days to confirm the cardiologist’s diagnosis of “stress.” I thought I was literally going insane.
The Robin my sweet friend knew was constantly striving and pursuing and feeling like she never was enough. But shopping, that she did well. It was easy and stress-free and there’s nothing like the freedom of being completely alone smack in the middle of crowds of people. No one needed me or challenged me or asked me to prove myself to them.
Me and Saul, a Shopper and a Shamer…
For a week or so, I’d been working through the story of Paul. Reading about his Damascus Road conversion and Jesus changing his name from Saul to Paul, moving from chief sinner to Jesus’ chosen instrument.
I was thinking about pre-Jesus Saul with all his studying of the law and climbing the Pharisee ladder of success and his undeterred passion for pointing people towards the traditions. Wondering what did people see when they saw Saul?
If Saul had three best buds and they were walking in the dark quiet of the temple, was one of them a teacher of the Law and one of them a singer of the Psalms and Saul, was he the mean guy who hunted down Jesus followers?
A teacher, a singer, and a BULLY?
And how did Saul feel about that? Did he think to himself, wow, am I really like King Saul? Full of anger and bitterness and spending all of my energy and time chasing down David?
Do people really only see me as a killer, a bully, a religious zealot, a shamer?
He was hunting and shaming and bullying followers of that heretic Jesus because he was trapped in a job, a Pharisee, where he was bound to the Law. He carried around his big law books with lists of churches and preachers and cities where they could be found, ready to answer any questions people might have about the Law, about Jesus, about those followers of The Way. He was doggedly devoted to his job. It consumed him. And he was succeeding at it, Christians were scared of him.
Saul’s persecution of Jesus followers was a physical manifestation of a spiritual suffocation.
I shopped because my soul knew it found some relief, some satisfaction, some breath in something new. Saul persecuted and jailed and shamed followers of Jesus because his soul knew it found some relief, some satisfaction, some breath in preserving the Law.
Our behaviors are a physical reflection of our spiritual situation.
My shopping was a physical expression of my spiritual need to be filled. I filled my closet and my home with beautiful suits I would wear to a job where I felt like an imposter, where at any moment, everyone would see me as the failure I was and, as the breadwinner, we would lose everything.
Saul and me, we were both suffocating in our spiritual void.
The Damascus Road Experience…
Most of us don’t experience that Damascus Road moment like Saul did. A blinding light, the audible voice of Christ, and witnesses to confirm, yeah, I heard Him too, that totally happened. Maybe that’s because most of us don’t need that. We aren’t so hard-hearted, so set in the opposite direction of God, so lost we are best known for our worst quality.
Then I think through that moment in my closet when God spoke to me so clearly, called me to Him, inviting me to a life focused on speaking the language of gratitude. I knew He was inviting me to change my entire life. And I realize, my closet was my Damascus Road. Not physically blind but momentarily blind by choice, hiding my tears and pleas to God from my husband.
I was incredibly passionate about my career, over-my-heals in love with my work family, and yet, my body was sick and waving the flag of surrender. The job did not cause my crisis. The job was hard and demanding but it was also incredibly rewarding and exciting. Those long, exhausting days offered me my very first glimpse of being a part of something much larger than myself. The company was building, changing, growing and as it grew, my vision of who I was and who I could become grew as well.
My stress, my body fighting an anxiety it had never before experienced, had very little to do with external circumstances. My soul was crying out, pleading with me, reaching outside of myself towards a Father I’d put in a box on the top of my ever-growing closet believing the lie I could do this in my own power. Shopping became a way to deal with the stress and loud the screaming of my heart.
But there, in that closet I had carefully created and organized and used as my shield to the urgings of my heart, God came. He shined the bright light of His love and grace and mercy on me. He called me, offered healing to the worn body I had continued to punish and bully and shame. He invited me with a voice speaking, Robin, Robin, are you grateful? I am Jesus, the one you are running from, the one who created that body you hate right now, the one who died for you, the one watching you pursue death when I have already defeated the grave.
Robin, the slowly dying shopper.
Saul, incredibly zealous in his persecution of followers of The Way, a bully, a killer, a shamer. Traveling a road with written letters giving him the authority to punish anyone sold out to Jesus. He had his mission, his instructions, his dogged determination. Only, instead of finding Jesus followers to shame, he found a gospel of which he was never ashamed. Jesus called him. And once Jesus spoke, chose him as His instrument of the gospel, Paul became a passionate preacher, bringing people to The Way.
Shamer to Unashamed.
Shopper to Sold Out.
But here’s the thought I cannot shake…
Saul and Paul. Zealous and passionate, before and after his conversion. God used his passionate personality for His glory.
What if God put it there on purpose? What if before our Creator placed a single star in the sky, what if He decided before He formed Saul in the womb, what if God put Paul’s zealous, dogged determination in him to be used for His Kingdom?
And if God put that in Saul for Paul to use for God’s glory, could that mean the things we have in us that feel weird or unholy or not good enough for Kindgom work, could those be things God purposefully set in us for His use?
Could God have put in me a love of shopping???? Is that even a Kindgom thing???
Friday. Come back Friday.