I can’t count the number of times I have gone into one or another of my favorite thrift stores in search of something and, despite a mountain of junk, found it.
One time we were invited to a black tie cancer research fundraiser and I had nothing formal to wear, nor did I want to spend hundreds of dollars on something I would wear for only one night. As I walked into our ARC thrift store, I silently prayed, “Okay, God, you know what I need, help me out here.” An hour later I had found no less than five super cute, super nice dresses that all fit perfectly (stock up when that happens, girls).
Over and over this has happened. I’ve found a slip for one daughter’s choir outfit the day of her performance, Born Mary Janes for another who desperately needed church shoes, and even Easter hats I could never spend the frivolous money on otherwise.
God has come through for me in these tangible ways time and time again. But nowhere do I find Jesus speaking to me as clearly as in the book section. No matter what issue I am struggling with or what topic I am currently studying or interested in, I find something related at the thrift store.
To wit: While in Maine a few years ago, my daughter and I stumbled upon several tiny, hole-in-the-wall book stores. In one I found a used copy of a Frederick Buechner book I had been looking for. In one I found several C.S. Lewis books I had been wanting to replace since I loaned out my theology library (yes, all of it, bad, bad) and never got it back. In the third store, I found a copy of Sheldon Vanauken’s A Severe Mercy, which my uncle had recommended just the day before. In the fourth, way on a bottom shelf in the very back of a miniscule Kansas antique store, I found a darling copy of Horton the Elephant, which was the only thing, I had told my girls that morning, that I wanted to find.
Yesterday I found a book called Bringing Home the Prodigals. The book is thin and easily read in an afternoon, which is what I did. Lent seems a perfect time to talk about the prodigal son and this book spoke to me just exactly what I needed to hear as we enter Holy Week.
I’m reminded, among many other things, that we’re all prodigals. No matter our flawless church attendance record, our tee-totalling, our nicotine-free lungs, we are all prodigals. No matter that we don’t swear like sailors or fornicate or read Danielle Steel novels, we are all prodigals. No heart is perfect, free from judgement or pride or unkindness, no matter how nicely we clean up on the outside. None of us forgive like we should. None of us love like we should. None of us pass on grace like we should.
Despite each and every thing we have done wrong, God, who has been watching for us all along, runs down the road with open arms, not even allowing us to properly prostrate ourselves or offer penitence before enveloping us in a great big bear hug and shouting orders to prepare a rocking party for us.
Can you imagine??
Easter week is especially sweet for the prodigal. It is rain on a scorched soul, the washing of tired feet, being tucked once again under the shelter of His fatherly wings.
I met Jesus in the thrift store and you know what He said?