Today Brett asked me to make a trip to the convenience store to pick up a couple of beers and a pack of cigarettes.  We were in an unfamiliar town so I made a guess as to which way to turn at the stoplight to find the closest convenience store.  When I found one not too far away I felt pretty good about my choice of direction, until I walked into the store.  I must have found the only convenience store on the face of this planet that does not stock beer or cigarettes.

I decided Walmart would be a safe bet to find the things I was looking for and typed it into my phone.  About 15 minutes later I pulled into the Walmart parking lot.  I even scored a front door parking space.  Since I have never bought beer and cigarettes before I walked into Walmart thinking I could be anonymous in my purchases.  Anonymity eluded me however when I discovered I must have found the only Walmart that does not sell alcohol.  I did manage to find the cigarettes after asking twice.  Not wanting to draw attention to my purchase of contraband I semi-whispered for a pack of cigarettes.  The short and somewhat rotund walmart associate behind the counter had a voluminous voice that boomed to all around “What kind dya want honey?  Menthol, non-menthol, slim, low nicotine, double nicotine?  And what’s your brand?”  I quickly informed her that it didn’t matter because no one would be smoking them.  She gave me a slightly confused look as she grabbed a random pack, I paid and left quickly.  Thinking I had finally made my escape she yelled after me that I could purchase the beer I was looking for at the liquor store next door.

Racing out of Walmart into the cold wind, I took Aspen by the hand and blowing my natural caution in new situations to the wind, I walked with semi-confidence into the store.  I approached the counter mustering my confidence and asked the store clerk where I could find the beer.   He pointed me to the refrigerated section in the back of the store.  The clerk rang up my purchases which came just over $4.00 and then he told me unless I used cash I needed a minimum purchase of $8.00.  What to do, buy more beer?  No, he might think I’m an alcoholic!  Eager to get out of the store, I quickly grabbed a couple handfuls of candy bars and single serving of crackers that were at the register.  I’m not sure what the guy behind the counter thought of me, probably the same thing the Walmart clerk thought as well.

So what possible spiritual point does my experience today contain?  It made me think of this: Buying beer and cigarettes is not something I’ve ever done before.  I felt awkward and uncomfortable going in to these stores and being seen by others as I was buying them.  I felt uncomfortable because, well, I believe consuming beer and cigarettes is harmful to your body and spirit and therefore sinful.  I didn’t feel right doing something I believe to be wrong.  But then I thought, “What if I felt like this over every sinful practice in life?”

It was easy to feel awkward over things I had never done and had no desire to do, but why don’t I feel the same way about pride, or jealousy, or harboring negative thoughts or feelings towards others?  I don’t think God feels any more or less sadness about one sin over another.  Sin is sin and it all hurts us, God’s children, so I think He pretty much feels the same way towards all sin: He hates it, because of what it does to us.

So here’s the challenge for us both: Lets look at all the things in our lives that keep us From God, or get in the way of God’s working in us.  Then, I’m going to choose and feel as uncomfortable and awkward in doing those things as I do in say, buying cigarettes and beer.

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