It was just a chance meeting. The men had been best friends while in college and had roomed together for two years. They vowed to stay in touch after graduation but as time moved on, so did they. It had been too many years to remember when it happened. One had become a factory representative and when his territory was enlarged it brought the two back together. They just bumped into each other on a city street, and the joy of seeing each other again was just overwhelming. They danced on the sidewalk, hugging, and slapping each other on the back with ‘love licks’.
When the initial surprise wore thin, they began to compare notes. “So you’re married and have three boys, all just two years apart,” said one in a rather envious note. “And you never have found ‘Miss Right’, retorted the other. It was during the time of high inflation, and both seem to be struggling financially. “You really don’t know what it’s like to have kids, all of them under the age of eight. They don’t eat, they inhale the food, and when one needs a new pair of shoes, the second and third will whine in a sweet way, “I need a new pair of shoes too, Daddy”. They parted on a high note, wishing each other well and the single singing out, “Don’t let that grocery list get you, ha.”
It was three months later that the couple met again. This time they were separated by Main Street. “Your kids still inhaling food are they?”.
The reaction was devastating. His friend stopped, shoulders drooped and his head hung low. The reaction of his friend was one of panic, he wormed his way through the traffic and reached his friend with the words, “What happened!”
His friend never looked up, trying to hold back the tears and said in a whisper, “You didn’t hear”. Without an answer he uttered words that were unbelievable. “Two weeks ago, we had a fire at our house. The boys were in the upper loft and were trapped. As the flames rose and enveloped their room, we cried to them, break the window and jump, boys, jump. There was no way to save them. They all died in the fire. We buried them in an single grave, side by side. The coffins were so little and . . . . without going on he just fell into his friends arms and they wept together.
I don’t remember where I read this story, but at the time, we had three boys, under the age of eight. The conversation so paralleled my case that it changed my heart from that time on.
Your boys don’t inhale the food any more, and you never hear them say, “Daddy, I need a new pair of shoes!”
That afternoon I went to the grocery store and bought the needs for the family. I will always remember being in the check out line and having bought the supplies, I turned to those waiting there – turned and said in a loud voice, “I’M THE WINNER“. In initial shock was registered on the faces as I held up the long check list. They were a bit confused and embarrassed and they quickly turned to buy small items on the stands beside them or just pretended to look at magazines. They didn’t understand what I was thinking and why I bellowed those three words.
“I’m the winner for we have three boys at home. You ought to see ’em eat. They don’t eat, they inhale the food. From now on, when one needs a new pair of shoes, I’m going to smile and say, “you mean I have the distinct honor, and the wonderful privilege, the marvelous opportunity of buying you a new pair of shoes?” Then I’ll turn to the others and grin as I say, “You need a new pair too.” I have kids at home and they are alive and growing – what a blessing!
When our daughter (we adopted three girls when we could not have more children) was in college. She wrote a nice letter to me. “Dear Dad, Both me and my roommate get money from home. My roommate said there was a big difference. While we often would receive the same amount, your Dad seems to enjoy sending it and my Dad doesn’t”. It all dates back to that grocery list and the joyous privilege of providing.
At your next family devotions, read Paul’s instruction to Timothy, “But if any provide not for his own, especially those of his own house, he hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel” (I Timothy 5:8). What a distinct honor, what a wonderful privilege, what a marvelous opportunity to have a family who needs you and you have the ability to meet those needs.
The next time you put your hands on a long grocery list, look at it carefully, don’t throw it in the trash. It is a unique certificate, a badge of honor, a love list of deliberate provisions for those who look for your coming. They are only with you for a while, and in some cases, that time is cut short in tragedy. Paul writes, “And now abideth, faith, hope and love and the greatest of these is love” (I Corinthians 13:12). Post your grocery list up in a special place. I still have mine.