The other day I went to Home Depot. I had a small list of things to buy, and decided that a shopping cart was in order. I have this broken part of my brain that won’t allow me to grab a buggy upon entering a store. No, instead I go walking through the place grabbing items and juggling them in my arms until I either drop them all, or successfully make it to the checkout line. The benefit of this is that I don’t often impulse buy, and only get what will fill my arms without falling out.
But on this particular day I knew that I needed to get more, and a cart was in order. Home improvement stores have some strange practices regarding their carts. There are the regular carts in the line outside the doors, but there are also different types of contraptions for larger items. These carts (pull carts, and those vertically divided ones) are hidden throughout the store randomly. This makes shopping more fun, because you have to first find the cart before finding the items you came to buy. It is like a little Easter egg hunt. I needed one of these.
The first one that I found was in the paint aisle. It was staring at me, daring me to just try and take it. I grabbed in victory, and headed to find the first item on my list. Thumpity-thumpity-thumpity it dragged, a worn out mule. Looking underneath the cart, I noticed that one wheel had a flat spot where the rubber had worn off.
I abandoned that one, wondering why they didn’t just retire it (no pun intended). I had already been down a host of aisles before I found that lame cart, so I wondered where the others could be. I felt like Magnum PI, looking for clues to the case of the missing cart. I pretended to have a bushy mustache.
Finally, down the lumber aisle I found a grazing herd of carts. I snuck up behind and grabbed one, quickly heading off to get what I needed, both because now I was behind schedule and so as not to spook the rest of the carts. A few aisles into my escape I noticed that I, like a hunting lion, seemed pretty good at picking off the weakest of the pack. This cart pulled constantly to the right, making me muscle it left with every push.
Not to overly spiritualize (OK, I’m over-spiritualizing), but as I sat in my devotions moments ago, I realized that I am very much like these carts. Broken wheels, I clack along, my progress slower than it should be and loudly complaining the whole way. With every step forward, I turn my attention to things around me. I take my eyes off of my goal and soon I find myself headed straight for those distractions, and toward a crash.
In Deuteronomy 30:17-20, God told His people that the wonderful promises He had given them were indeed conditional. His blessing would become a curse if they turned away. His promised life would become death—a scary thought. We scoff at the faithlessness of the Israelites in syncretism and enslavement to idolatry. How could they be so foolish?
Yet, like my wounded cart, we prove ourselves unable to walk out the things that we commit to. We list and complain in the deceitfulness of our hearts. The very things we say we want to do, we forsake. And the things that we claim to abhor, these are the things we find ourselves doing. Who will save us from these bodies of death? Thanks be to Jesus. On our own, we are nothing but terrible shopping carts.