Practices From the Inside Out: Looking for God in the Checkout Line

Looking for God in the Checkout Line

There are times when we feel like we spend our lives in the checkout line.

We find ourselves surrounded by distractions designed to get us to make an impulse buy. They are almost always food which is not good for us or news about people we do not know.

Sometimes it feels like our lives include long stretches of time waiting in checkout lines. The people in front of us in line may not be as well organized as we are. We may be waiting because there are not enough people to help all of us who need it.

They might have run out of the stuff we think we need, or the stuff which is on sale.

Then there are the times when we know we have forgotten something but cannot think what it is.

It is best if we do not even start on “express” lines.

Where is the spiritual life of waiting in the checkout line? Is God in the checkout line with us? You would think things would go more smoothly, more quickly if God were there.

Some of us believe spiritual life is a lot like waiting in a checkout line. Things we would like to know or understand right away often seem to take longer. There is no express line. They are out of what we really want, and it is hardly ever on sale. We may decide to try another store which is less convenient, but a more satisfying experience.

Sometimes I think the most challenging part of checkout lines is the other people in them. Without other people, checkout lines, like spiritual life, could be much faster and easier.

Can We Find God in the Checkout Line?

I know a lot of people who apparently believe God lives in special places. They look for God in particular buildings or cities. It is as if God holds office hours at specific times on certain days. They may even take trips to historically or spiritually significant sites to try to find God.

Other people seem to think they need to get away to the mountains or the beach to find God. They may go to the woods or the desert, or somewhere in the country, looking for spiritual life.

We may look for signs which indicate to us we are drawing closer to God.

It may be easier for us to listen or experience spiritual life somewhere quiet. That is not because God prefers isolated or historic places. We are more likely to be paying attention when we are not surrounded by distractions. Our everyday lives are full of other things demanding our attention. It can be more challenging for us to recognize God.

We go to special places so we can pay better attention. It is not that God is more real or more present in these places, but that we are.

Whenever I visit New Camaldoli hermitage, I pay more attention to spiritual life. the changes in me begin as I travel up to Big Sur. My experience is that distractions fall away as I drive, even on the freeway.

It is not that God spends more time at the hermitage, but that I am paying better attention.

I believe God is everywhere. Spiritual life surrounds us and lives within us. We can even find God in the checkout line.

How Do We Look For God in the Checkout Line?

Where do we look for God in the checkout line? Are there signs to show us spiritual life is present?

It can be a challenge for me to recognize God when surrounded by all the distractions. I do not usually find spiritual life in all those things calling out for me to buy them on an impulse. Spiritual life is usually calmer or more thoughtful for me than that.

When I go up to the hermitage I practice paying attention. My looking for God in the checkout line depends on how well I can listen.

There are times when I get distracted. It is not only the magazines or the junk food. Many of my distractions come from within me.

Checking out comes at the end of a shopping experience. My approach to shopping is often organized and focused. I like to know exactly what I need so I do not waste any time. Shopping is something I like to spend as little time as possible doing.

I approach checking out the same way. It is important to me to find the shortest line and spend the least amount of time in it. I am not particularly patient in the checkout line.

My understanding of God in the checkout line has been shaping the way I shop. While I still may not be the most patient person in line, I now try to look for God.

The most obvious place for me to find God in the checkout line is in other people.

Even the people who tend to slow me down are filled with spiritual life. God lives in mothers with several children or people who are not very well organized.

Spiritual life draws us in ways which might make us feel impatient.

The Power of God in the Checkout Line

The God I recognize in the checkout line does not find some days more spiritual than others. Spiritual life floods our everyday lives, filling ordinary experiences with meaning.

Our lives are a series of moments, each one spent in the present. We do not get to choose which moments are spiritual and which are not.

What we get to choose is whether or not we are paying attention.

God in the checkout line gets my attention.

The spiritual life flowing all around us draws me to pay attention to the other people in line. God reminds me the people checking us out also need my attention.

It is important not to get distracted, to pay attention, in the checkout line. You never know who you might see.

[Image by Random Retail]

Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and leadership coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney and university professor, and a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com, and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.

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