Monday, November 28, 2011

Black Friday

I had never done it before and it seemed like such a crazy thing to do. Who really wants to get out of bed at 2 a.m. to get to Wal-Mart at 2:30 a.m. so that you can wait in the cold with a bunch of other crazies? In a few minutes they (the other crazies) will be trampling you to get to the HDTV first and sawing off your arm to get that laptop that you scored. It's a jungle out there, so stay home.

That has been my presupposition for years, and it has served me well.

Then there is a bigger reason I don't do Black Friday. It's me. I am competitive. I could get pumped. I could get feisty. I could throw an elbow trying to get what I wanted. That part of me may not be all bad, but on a Black Friday....yeah, it's all bad. And I don't like that feeling. I don't like being controlled by greed or desire. And it is not only not good, but dangerous as well. Look out for the pepper spray, the arrests, the riots, and the deaths . . . all over getting some PS2. No deal is worth that.

This year, for some reason or other, I was drawn in. I think it started with the midnight openings. That sounded like fun. Stay up late on Thanksgiving Day, and then head out to enjoy some late night shopping with friends or family. And, then there were the $20.00 boots at Belk! So I opened my mouth and before I knew it, I was committed to this adventure. My 18 year old daughter was going to make sure of that.

I will let you know that I set some boundaries. I would not even consider Walmart or Target. That was for the bloodthirsty crowd. I was there for fun. (Did I really just type the word, "fun"?)

Off we go, and it is unlike anything I have ever seen. The parking lots for Kohl's and Best Buy are completely filled and we have to park at Olive Garden and walk. But we don't mind, the air is alive as if something magical is going to happen when the stores open. Frothy Starbucks cups warm most hands. ( I find it completely ironic that no one balks at 5 bucks for coffee while searching for "deals.")

The line for Best Buy swings around the perimeter of the store. The Kohl's line stretches from one end of the strip mall to the other. My daughter and neice head to the Best Buy line. I head out for Kohl's. Because it is almost midnight, I wait with a few other shoppers across the parking lot from the beginning of the line. None of us wants to trudge to the back of the line, we plan to wait for the entire line to pass us and then we will go in.

Unfortunately, this plan worries one or two of those fighters in the real line. There is a fear that we plan to rush the door and break the line to get in ahead of them. A man looks at us and yells, "The line starts back there!", as he points out the obvious. A few yards down a woman seconds his emotion with, "The line is in the back!"

Being the self-elected spokesperson for the group, I yell out to our fearful friends in my sweetest Southern-ease, "Hey, y'all can chill. We are not going to break. It's okay. We are going to wait until the end of the line." This seems to be met with relief and chit-chat resumes. Fist fight averted.

When the doors open, there is cheering! Yes, cheering! Do these people not realize this store opens its doors everyday? They could do this every morning if they wanted. I bet the Kohl's employees would feel very appreciated if they had someone there giving them a rousing cheer each day. "Woo-Hoo, you opened the door! Thank you!! I love coming to your place of business!"

The rest of the early morning is filled with courtesy and kindness. Really. People are very nice at this hour, I suppose. Or maybe it is that I am in middle Georgia rather than in metro Atlanta. Whatever the reason, I made it through Black Friday without getting harmed or harming others.

I think my big lesson for Black Friday was remembering that no gift, no thing, no present, no material item is worth sinning. I had avoided Black Friday in the past because I did not want to be overtaken by greediness and grabbiness. I made it through this year without a fight, but because I struggle with the "wish-I-had-that" mentality, I find my mind is the bigger battlefield. Just looking at Black Friday ads or any Christmas catalog can get me thinking so much about stuff instead of what Christmas is supposed to be about. I have a long way to go in following 2 Corinthians 10:5, "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."

The "wish-I-had-that" attitude is a desire for more than what God has materially given me. Instead of being grateful for what I do have, I am only looking at all that I think I am being denied. Talk about entitlement. In our culture it's easy to excuse because we live here in the land of plenty. But God doesn't give me a pass on greed. In fact, He calls greed idolatry. Idolatry. I have to let that one sink in for a minute or two.

Tim Keller in his book Counterfeit Gods, says, "Idolatry is not just a failure to obey God, it is a setting of the whole heart on something besides God." I want my whole heart to be set on God. Knowing Him. Loving Him. Trusting Him. Resting in Him. Black Friday is not a bad thing or a good thing, it is neutral. What matters is not whether I go out with the crowds on Black Friday, but what my heart is set on every day.

Father, may my heart be set on You this season and all seasons. May I have a heart of contentment and thankfulness for the blessings You have generously poured out upon me. I have a healthy family. I have a warm bed. I am well-fed. I have shoes on my feet. I have clothes to wear. I have friends. I have a church family that loves and encourages me. I have a job I love. Thank you Father, I've gotten a steal of a deal.

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