(Here's another retrospective account of a shoebox miracle in 1998--It's good to remember how God's provided over the years.)
Sweating It Out -- 1998
The windshield wipers thrash, trying to outgun the relentless snow. Above their loud swishing, I hear a shrill sound. Sounds almost like a siren, but with the heater blasting and the radio’s bass thumping, it’s hard to be sure.
“Our God is an awesome God,” I sing along to the praise music pulsing through the car. How appropriate that this should be playing right now as I ride the crest of another shoebox miracle and think about what just happened.
Only half an hour ago I stopped at Value City, a local discount store, to see if they had any good clothing items on sale that I could save for shoeboxes next fall. In the children’s department, I found a rack of attractive little girls’ Christmas sweat suits. The two-piece red or green outfits had various glittered motifs such as wreaths or bells on the front, and each one came with an attached matching hair ornament. Best of all, when I checked the price tags I found they were on sale for $2.50. I decided to buy ten of them and sorted through the styles to choose my favorites. Piling them in my shopping cart, I headed to the check-out counter with a smile, thinking about how happy they would make the little girls who received them.
There was no wait at the cash register, so I speed-wrestled the stack of outfits from my cart onto the counter and checked my watch. In just twenty minutes I needed to be downtown to pick my daughter up from her dance lesson, and it looked like I would just make it. The cashier scanned the tag on the first outfit, and I watched the price come up on the cash register—it read 62 cents. “Wait!” I said, as she reached for the second tag. “Something’s wrong. The price tag says $2.50, and it only rang up as 62 cents.”
“Oh,” the cashier said with a smile, “all the Christmas merchandise is 75% off the lowest price now.”
“You mean these are only 62 cents each?”
“Looks like it,” she said, watching the price come up after scanning the second tag.
“Uh, can I run back and get more?” my voice was nearly squeaking.
“Sure. I’ll just finish ringing these up while you go back there.”
I grabbed my empty cart, dashed back to the rack, scooped all the rest of the sweat suits up without even counting them, and trotted on to the cashier within less than two minutes. Another cashier came to help bag the suits as they were rung up, and soon my shopping cart overflowed with huge white bags. Finally, the last price tag was scanned, and the cashier hit the total button, and then inspected the register receipt. “So your total is $25.42, and that’s for 41 all together.”
“Wow, that’s great!” I said, handing over my credit card. “That’s less than I was planning to pay for 10 of them.”
“It sure is a great deal,” she agreed. “What are you going to do with all these?”
“Oh, our church packs shoeboxes to send to kids in other countries. These fancy suits will really make some little girls happy.”
“That’s nice,” she smiled, pushing the last bag toward me. “Now you be careful driving out there.”
“I will. Thanks again.” I ran to the car, stowed my treasures in the back seat, and brushed the snow from the front and back windshields. Checking my watch, I realized I had only ten minutes before my daughter’s class ended, so I scraped the ice from just a small area so I could see out, jumped in and started the car, and pulled out to the intersection where the light was red. I looked and saw no other cars at all on the street, so I went ahead and made the right hand turn.
Now I glance in my rearview mirror and through the haze of frost I spot a flashing red light. Yes, it’s definitely a siren. This police car must be rushing to an accident. I slow and move to the inside lane. Why isn’t he pulling around me? There’s plenty of room. I don’t see one other car on this usually busy street. No one else is stupid enough to be out in this storm. Another look in my mirror shows he’s slowed down right behind me. Puzzled, I put my foot on the brake and steer toward the berm. My euphoric mood deflates like a balloon in a briar patch.
I turn off the radio, then roll down the window as the burly officer leans over and says, “Ma’am, do you know why I stopped you?”
“Well, that intersection back there has no right turn on red.”
“Really? Oh, I’m so sorry.” I’m guilty, I know. I didn’t see the sign, but that’s no excuse.
“I’ll need to see your license and registration,” he continues.
I dig into my wallet, then fish through the glove compartment, and hand him the necessary cards. He walks back to his car, and I sit and curse my stupidity. Now I’m going to get a ticket that will probably cost at least several times more than the money I just saved. And I’m going to be late picking up my daughter. And why did I ever buy 41 outfits anyway? Last year I only packed 80 boxes all together. I’ve already bought way too many things, and it’s only February. The miracle I was glorying in a few minutes ago seems to have vanished.
I hear the slam of a door and look in my side mirror to see the officer approaching. Just how much is the fine for making an illegal right turn on red? I roll down the window and know that I’ll soon find out.
“Ma’am,” he says, holding out my card and registration, “I’m just giving you a warning this time.”
“A warning?” I say, with a little choking sound followed by a long breath.
“Yes. But be more careful next time.”
“Okay. Right,” I stammer. “I will. Be careful, I mean. Thank you.”
“It’s okay,” he says, “Just be careful.” He walks back to his car, and I wait until he drives off before I pull slowly onto the street. I accelerate to five miles below the speed limit and hold the gas pedal steady, even though I am still running late.
A warning. I can’t believe it. What a gift of mercy I have just received. I was guilty, but after sweating it out, I was offered grace.
I can’t help but think of the far greater grace of God. When I deserved to die because of my sin, Jesus came and died Himself to take my punishment. Suddenly I start to laugh. I am giddy.
What a miracle.