Paul once said he had learned the secret of contentment, but he never had to shop at a grocery store. Everyone has their hang-ups, and this is one of my many. Every time I walk through those automatic doors and grab a shopping cart (or “buggy” where I’m from), I know I’m entering a minefield of frustration and impatience.
It’s like the engineers who designed the shopping carts didn’t consult with the engineers who designed the width of the aisles to allow two shoppers to pass with ease. Some shoppers seem to think their carts are holograms and can be walked through as if they were immaterial. As I shop, thoughts run wild in my head:
Why do five people need to be looking for spices the moment I need to be? Who had the bright idea of putting water pitcher filters in the hardware section? Who goes through self-checkout with 35 items at DMV-level speed?
My shopping experiences sometimes morph into moments of inner rage. I don’t want to be this way.
I want to be grateful I get to shop for food at all, with little concern about having enough to pay for what I need.
I want to see people as God sees them, but then someone forgets how to use their credit card in front of me. It’s a trivial example of a deeper reality of my humanity.
Waiting is not easy.
ALREADY, NOT YET
Paul wrote, “For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Rom 7:18). Many theologians have ascribed Paul’s reflections here to the Christian experience. Regardless of what Paul specifically meant in this instance, the sentiment itself could describe how Christians often feel.
We are thankful for the gospel’s promise of adoption and grace extended toward sinners like us (Eph 1:5-6), but we are discouraged when our flesh continually presumes on the riches of his kindness (Rom 2:4). We love the thought of receiving “new wine,” but this old wineskin of a body seems to be the wrong place for it (Mk 2:21-22). We live as a “new creation” right here and now (2 Cor 5:17), but a day will come when we are made new, indeed, sinless (Rev 21:5).
Here lies the already-but-not-yet reality of the Christian life, and the answer is not very satisfying: wait.