I used to say I wasn’t much of a shopper. Actually, I used to say I hated shopping. And to an extent, I did. I’ve never been the girl to willingly spend an afternoon at the mall. For me, that is torture. Not that I think there’s anything wrong with shopping (in moderation, of course). It just doesn’t happen to be one of my favorite things to do.
But not long ago, I realized that I had a habit which could very well challenge my claim to despise shopping. Since the advent of Amazon, it’s been easier to hide, so I didn’t really notice that it was an issue. Back when I had to buy everything at the store, it was much clearer. And while it puzzled me, it was easy enough to move past because it never left any marks on my bank account or credit cards.
It did, however, occupy a fair amount of my time, energy, and thoughts. When I became an online shopper (I literally buy everything I possibly can online), I just figured that the habit wasn’t hurting anyone because at least the time, energy and thoughts it consumed could be taken from my own “unplugged” hours – times when I wasn’t needed anywhere else.
The habit is a silly one, but I’m sure I’m not the only person who struggles with it. Since I don’t like to shop in the complete sense (because I don’t want to pay the price for all the items I want), I developed a habit somewhere of walking through a store and filling up my cart as though I was going to buy everything I picked up. But always, buyers remorse (or the Holy Spirit’s conviction) would get the best of me, and by the time I would get to the checkout stand, I would only purchase a few, necessary items and leave the rest behind. Now that I’m an online shopper, it’s become, in all honesty, worse of a habit, because the stuff I collect in my virtual basket is harder to leave behind. It literally just sits there, waiting to be purchased at some future date, should I decide I really do want it afterall.
So there are times when I go looking for something needed, but get distracted by all the other nice stuff that is “suggested.” It’s so easy to hit the button and pop it into the cart, without paying the price for it right there. This way, I am not committed. I have time to think about it. And it’s safely tucked away in a place where, at any given moment, I can decide I am ready for the gratification of receipt.
It may seem harmless, and in truth, I really thought it was for a long time. Most of the things in my cart, I reasoned, are things I will probably ask for as birthday or Christmas gifts. They are things I really do desire and could in fact use. Nevertheless, they are a constant reminder of secret desires and beckoning wishes that wait for me whenever I am feeling aimless, overwhelmed, stuck or powerless. One click, and I can just peruse through my basket of wishes again, which somehow makes me feel better…at least for the moment.
But having a full cart in the background of my life poses a greater problem than I realized. As I sat in my prayer closet the other day, I felt listless. It was hard for me to sit still and get quiet. I had a ton of things running through my mind and tugging at my heart. Usually, I keep a notepad next to me to write down thoughts or to-do items that might seek to distract me, so I can remember to do them later and not have to worry about them in the moment. But this was different. My chest felt heavy. It felt like I couldn’t get past whatever was in the middle of my chest, to get to my heart. Something was in the way.
I tried to read my Bible, to sort of kickstart my quiet time. I tried to worship for a few minutes. But the heaviness in my chest – that thing I couldn’t get around – didn’t lift. I felt so distracted. As I sat still anyway, wrestling with whatever it was that was in my way, I saw an image of what appeared to be a basket in the middle of my chest, and something was being added to it. Actually, a more accurate statement would be that I saw (and felt) something attaching itself to what was already in the basket. Then I heard the Spirit of the Lord whisper, “Empty your cart.”
Although I knew He wasn’t talking about my Amazon cart, I got the metaphor. Much like virtual shopping, somewhere I had picked up the habit of collecting things to carry within myself: concerns, fears, secret hopes, false burdens of responsibility. And all of those things sit in the middle of my chest, just waiting to be picked up and embraced.
I do a pretty good job of trying not to do what I know I shouldn’t, just like I have become good at not buying what I know I can’t afford. Instead, however, I have developed the habit of picking things up and putting them in another place, where they are confined, but not without influence. Like my virtual cart, those things I have “put aside” or “put away for later” remain, and take their opportunity to lure my attention whenever I seek to go to the deep place within my heart before God.
What happened that day in my prayer closet taught me a valuable lesson: having a full cart prevents me from going deeper. Whatever I might receive of hope or help or inspiration is lost on the “stuff” I’ve accumulated with time. It all attaches to what I’m carrying, rather than seeping into the depths of my heart. Rather than being open to new things, being able to dream of greater things, I am lured back to what I’ve been holding onto, and get stuck there. When trouble comes, when difficulties arise, they also attach to the “stuff” in my cart, looking for a place to land for comfort. It becomes easier and easier – but less and less satisfying – to find comfort in the multitude of things I carry and can get distracted by, than to find comfort in God alone. It becomes easier and easier to be content with what I’ve filled my cart with, rather than move into new places with God.
Thankfully, I was reminded that my prayer closet – my secret place of getting alone with God – is just the place for emptying my cart. It’s the perfect time to unpack and put away all of the things that beg for my attention and affections, so that He can take me deeper. So that I can find and keep my truest satisfaction in Him. He wants to bring you into the same satisfaction, Dear Woman of Breakthrough.
It’s amazing how many contradictions can be hidden within our own hearts. It is more amazing, though, how well we are known by God and how intentional He is to free us from those contradictions. His liberty is the sweetest gift. A clean and de-cluttered heart makes life so much more fun to live! There are so many limitless possibilities!
Dear Woman of Breakthrough, have you emptied your cart lately? In this life, it’s easy to accumulate and even hold onto things we don’t need. But it is a dangerous and distracting habit that will prevent us from going to the places God longs to bring us into. I don’t know about you, but I desperately want to go deeper! May you take some time today, and every day, to empty your cart before God and to let Him fill you with even better things than you could have chosen for yourself!
“God, I invite Your searching gaze into my heart. Examine me through and through; find out everything that may be hidden within me. Put me to the test and sift through all my anxious cares. See if there is any path of pain I’m walking on, and lead me back to Your glorious, everlasting ways – the path that brings me back to You.” Psalm 139:23-24, Passion Translation
“Never doubt God’s mighty power to work in you and accomplish all this. He will achieve infinitely more than your greatest request, your most unbelievable dream, and exceed your wildest imagination! He will outdo them all, for His miraculous power constantly energizes you.” Ephesians 3:20, Passion Translation