The after Christmas sales were over, the crowds were gone but the bargains were neither gone nor over. They were merely picked over the Tuesday afternoon I was shopping at Target with my two young children.
I did not need anything from the Christmas section of the store that day, with Christmas being eleven months away. I am however, a sucker for a bargain and my children like to look at the lighted Santa and reindeer.
We slowly meandered our way through the aisles of wrapping paper, ribbons, bows and boxes. We tripped lightly through the ornaments, Christmas trees and lights. We looked at the picked over Christmas cards, garlands and wreaths. Nothing screamed “BUY ME!”
Until I saw them. The thing I spent years searching for. Purple Plates.
I didn’t need purple plates. My plates were perfectly fine. I was missing a few salad plates but who uses those anyway? My plates, while perfectly workable, were not purple. They weren’t as pretty.
“Oh girls! Look. I think we need some new plates, don’t you? They’re even purple.” I loaded four boxes of the plates into my red shopping car.
“Wow! Momma, those are pretty. Are we really getting four boxes?”
“Yes, we are. This way we can have sixteen people over for supper and everyone can have a plate.” I was, of course, leaving out the fact you can only crowd six people around my table and that is if we stack them on top of each other. I also left out the fact I really only have enough chairs for eight people if I use my card table. But I had to have sixteen of the purple plates.
I was so excited I didn’t even notice the boxes were not as heavy as I thought they would be. I did however, notice they were larger than the plates I had at home. I thought it was just my eyes playing tricks on me because I have trouble with depth perception. I knew I could find a way to make them fit in the cupboard and the dishwasher, even if they were a little too big.
With my new china plates firmly but gently placed in the cart, warnings to children sitting in the cart with the plates. “Sit carefully. These are fragile” we headed to the check out counters.
Along the way across the store, I am gushing over my new plates. I knew they would look so beautiful in my kitchen. Never mind I had just painted my kitchen red and my plates were purple. I had beautiful new plates. I knew I would be the envy of all my friends. I knew they would be even more envious of me when I told them how much I paid for them.
I plunk down my money and quickly leave the store, run to my van and race home. Never was I happier to live so close to Target in my life. I could not wait to get home, rip open the boxes and admire my plates without the constraints of the cardboard box.
At home I did just that. I gently sat the bag on the counter. If it were possible, I even more carefully slid one of the boxes out of the bag. I ripped the cardboard box off the plates and carefully slid the plates out into my hands. It was at that precise moment I realized I had made an awful, horrible mistake.
The plates were plastic. The very plates I had been exclaiming over with joy not five minutes before, I was now exclaiming over in horror. I couldn’t believe they were plastic. These were plates to give away, not plates to pass down to future generations.
Isn’t that the Christian life? We see something wrapped up in beautiful paper we desire it. We do what we have to get the box of plates only to discover they aren’t real.
At the same time, Jesus offers us part of Himself. But we can’t see, because He has wrapped it up in a brown paper sack. The very things we need, the thing we long for most of all, the most beautiful thing we have ever seen or ever will see, is wrapped not in beautiful paper, but in a brown paper sack.
It is only when we take the brown paper sack and open it, do we realize what a treasure we have.
Next time make mine a paper sack.
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