Grace: Shopping Carts and Hardened Hearts

by Larry Hehn on February 26, 2011

shopping cartThrough years of shopping experience, I’ve determined that the world can be divided into two kinds of people: those who return shopping carts to their proper storage areas, and those who don’t.

I don’t have much patience for those who leave carts in places that inconvenience other people.

One day, as my wife and I were unloading our cart into the back of our van, I heard the all-too-familiar clang of a cart being pushed partway up a concrete curb. Another shopper, not willing to push his cart back to a designated area, instead chose to park it where it didn’t belong.

While he did make an attempt to keep it from rolling into and denting other vehicles in the parking lot, he still blocked a parking spot with it and created extra work for store staff.

As soon as he deserted the cart, another shopper started waving at him and shouting, “Excuse me! Excuse me, sir? Excuse me!”

“Busted!” I thought.

Visibly agitated, expecting a scolding, the Cart Man scowled and, avoiding eye contact, skulked back to his car with hopes of making a quick getaway.

As Cart Man rushed to start his car, Excuse Me Man trotted over to the abandoned cart and picked up some groceries that Cart Man had forgotten and not noticed in his cart’s bottom rack. Excuse Me Man rushed over to Cart Man’s car and held the remaining groceries up to the passenger window, with a smile.

He opened the passenger door, placed them on the empty seat beside Cart Man, and gently closed the door.

I didn’t get to see the look on Cart Man’s face, but it must have been priceless.

Today, if you would hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts… – Psalm 95:7-8

The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever.
He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.
The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.
Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die.
The wind blows, and we are gone – as though we had never been here.
But the love of the Lord remains forever with those who fear him. – Psalm 103:8-17

How do you react when you know you’ve done something wrong and God tries to get your attention?

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Keri February 26, 2011 at 12:16 pm

This was an awesome analogy. It can be likened to the person who also does not scoop the poop of their dog, and then continues on as if not noticing that the dog has even pooped. All the while another walker is trying to catch up, “Excuse me, excuse me!” But, non scooper just continues on with earbuds in ear, pretending not to hear.

And, I just have to say, sometimes when you have 3 kids and have to load them and your groceries back in the car, ain’t no way I’m walking all the way to the cart area and leave my boys alone when there’s crazy people out there. Just sayin’! Normally I try to park close to the cart return for this reason, but sometimes I just can’t make it happen. 🙁

When I’ve done something wrong, I usually try to give God excuses. It doesn’t normally work, or at least not for long.

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Larry Hehn February 26, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Welcome, Keri! Yep, I can relate to the shopping with kids. Our oldest three are less than three years apart. Some stores near us actually now have designated parking spaces close to the doors for families with young children. Great idea!

Generally speaking, I think we know when we’ve messed up, but somehow have a tough time taking ownership of our shortcomings. I’m still amazed at the grace and mercy that God offers us in spite of that. And thankful. Very thankful.

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Sue Lawrence February 26, 2011 at 1:42 pm

It’s very possible that Cart Man has Crohn’s disease and was hurrying home to get to the bathroom. He may have been very relieved and smiled warmly at Excuse Me Man. Something to think about.

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Larry Hehn February 26, 2011 at 2:09 pm

You bring up a great point, Sue. I have no idea what was going on with Cart Man or what caused him to leave the cart where he did. It makes me wonder how often I write people’s intentions off as deliberate and/or malicious when they may not be. I would certainly want to be given the benefit of the doubt if I were in his shoes.

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Sue Lawrence February 26, 2011 at 2:25 pm

I was on the receiving end recently of some very harsh judgement that was based totally on misinformation. It really opened my eyes to the value of the benefit of the doubt. Thanks for seeing my comment for what it was.

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Katdish February 28, 2011 at 3:09 am

How do I react when I’ve done something wrong and God’s trying to get my attention? I’ll have to let you know when I do something wrong.

Oh, just kidding. I still cringe when I think of some of the things I’ve done. I try to make amends where I can, and am grateful for grace.
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Larry Hehn February 28, 2011 at 10:48 am

Hmm…a bit of denial in there? Glad to hear it’s not just me!
Yep, I have done many cringe-worthy things too. Grace really is amazing.
Thanks, Katdish!

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Moe February 28, 2011 at 10:28 am

Honestly? I tried to ignore him. But then I fall flat on my face and confess my sin.

I have to admit, I’ve done the whole “abandoned shopping cart” thing. Ouch!
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Larry Hehn February 28, 2011 at 10:51 am

Ignoring is part of my M.O. too, Moe. I’m glad God is consistent and persistent with his offer of grace. A helpful hint for putting the shopping cart away – turn it into a game, where you hum the theme from “Mission Impossible” while trying to return the cart undetected. It’s so much more fun that way!

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Moe February 28, 2011 at 11:43 am

I’m going to try that. I have the soundtrack too. LOL

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