We’re spending a week camping and working at Payette Lake in McCall. It’s like normal life but with walks in the forest, yoga on the beach, ukulele by the fire, deer in our campsite and mountain bike rids in between work and…wait no, it’s better than normal life (even with the day the rain made me crazy).
I didn’t post last Monday, and like everything else, it seems to be easier to fall out-of-intention than it is to maintain good habits. Until you’ve done something long enough for it to become your lifestyle (or if it’s both easy and pleasurable) you have to put conscious effort to continue.
Years ago, we started using cash for groceries and gas money. It has outlived its usefulness, but it’s still a habit. I mostly stuck to it during the pandemic even though it wasn’t best practice to hand (possibly) contaminated bills from one person to another.
I love it because it forces me to stick to my budget and I haven’t had trouble in the decade and a half since we first heard about the envelope system. Last week, though, I had trouble.
I went grocery shopping after I got gas (I haven’t increased my budget to match the rising costs yet) and had also spent all my splurge. So I didn’t have any backup cash at the store. To top off this perfect storm, I lost track of what I was buying, and I can’t remember the last time I did that. Normally, I keep a total in my head and usually settle at the register within a few dollars of what I’d counted. It’s just part of my process, and I like the challenge.
So when I heard the total last week, I felt flustered for a second. It was more than I had in my wallet. I was trying to decide if I should put a few things back or if I should have the checker hold my order while I went home to get a debit card. (Yes, I should just carry that with me.)
The woman behind me opened up her wallet and asked what amount I was short. It was fifteen dollars but I couldn’t do the math at the moment. I was still looking for other forms of payment to materialize in my purse. I looked up and said, “At least twenty.” She pulled a tightly folded fifty-dollar bill out of her wallet and said, “I’ve got this. I’ve been there. We’ve all been there.” I kept trying to insist, “No,” and at one point she paused with the money extended toward the checker. They both looked at me.
I didn’t want to accept it because I didn’t feel like I was in need. But the truth was, I didn’t have a way to pay at that moment. So, I was in need. When I looked into her eyes, I realized I would rob her of something if I said no. She shrugged and said with the biggest smile, “Just pay it forward.” So I nodded, feeling heat on my cheeks, and simply said, “Thank you.” At the end of a long day, she saved me both frustration and an extra drive.
I know it’s a paltry comparison to the grace God offers when we sin, but it still had me contemplating how hard it is to accept even in need—even when you can’t pay yourself. It’s pride, it’s a desire to provide your own way. I would always rather be the one offering something than needing it.
There have been times I’ve needed forgiveness from God and yet almost refused it when the hand was extended with a neatly folded payment. It happens when I turn repentance into a spiral of only thinking about my sinfulness. Anyone who struggles with “besetting” sins understands the ongoing battle. As I pictured the comparison of accepting grace like a stranger’s money, I felt a nudging to “be careful of the reflection that seeks to know your own fault more than knowing God.”
And I realized this is another part of faith, and faith pleases God. When you ask for forgiveness, you must then walk forward, believing that you are forgiven.