Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

Time to let the cat out of the bag. I’ll just go ahead and admit it. And deal with it later. What’s my long-kept secret? This might come as a complete surprise and shock to you. I don’t like to shop. There, I’ve said it and now I feel a whole lot better. And it’s the gospel truth.

If you’ve been to the woodshed with me before today, you’ve shared some of my horror and fright stories about shopping. Especially in those stores where you’re apt to get hit by a fork lift if you’re not careful. No, I didn’t say that that I don’t shop; it’s just that I don’t like it when I do.

When sweet thang makes me a list, I’ll go to the store. I call it sacrificial love. If she needs a bottle of oregano or 2 cloves of garlic or maybe 3 sprigs of dill for her latest culinary ‘surprise’, I’ll sacrifice my dignity and go stand in the spice aisle at the store, and take a chance on gettin’ hit by some 16-year-old practicing for the Daytona 500 on his fork lift.

When I find what’s on her list, I head straight for the self-checkout line where there’s a woman hidin’ inside a machine just waitin’ to play a little game of 21 questions with me. “Do you have your ID card? How will you pay for your purchase? Do you have any coupons? Do you have anything underneath your buggy?” Just one time I’d love to say, ‘Sure, lady, I’ve got a 50-pound sack of hog chow and 2 bales of hay under my buggy. Will you carry them to the car for me?’

But that would be rude and crude. And if there’s one thing I learned from wearing out the path to the woodshed back home, it doesn’t pay to be rude and crude. Especially to ladies. As in Daddy’s explaining the lesson to me on the way to the ‘shed, ‘I’ll teach you to be rude and crude to your mother.’ So that lady inside the machine at the store benefited greatly from my woodshed experience.

So I get home with my bag of cloves and sprigs and whatever else. Feelin’ pretty good about the whole thing. Then sweet thang comes out with another question. “You didn’t by any chance happen to get me some ground up basil leaves, did you?” Nope, sure didn’t, honey-pie, sugar- dumpling, you didn’t have ground up basil leaves on my list. “Well, I just thought you might have looked around while you were there to see if there was anything else I might need.” Are you beginning to understand why shopping isn’t on my Top 100 List of Things to do on a Rainy Day?

Same thing applies to shopping for new clothes for myself. I’d much rather wear the same old worn-out, faded-out, frayed-around-the-collar shirts and jackets than to go through the humiliation of –and I quote- ‘the ultimate shopping experience.’

Let me see if I can detail that experience in 60 words or less. First, you walk across a ten-acre, asphalt-covered field. At least they have those handy automatic door openers. Small consolation. Then you look up in the ceiling to find a little sign with an arrow pointing to the men’s department. About 2 miles from the front door.

When you make that hike, you find so many racks of clothes out in the aisle that it’s impossible to turn around without knocking something over. I think any kid under the age of 7 could hide in there for a week. I actually saw one kid under a rack of pajamas and warm-ups playing his game boy! His mother was a half-a-day’s walk over in foundations. At least, that’s what they used to call ‘that’ department. I saw a commercial for ‘that’ department on tv the other night. Four or five ladies with so little clothes on, they would have caught pneumonia. It was so obvious they couldn’t find the foundations department either! 

Well, anyway, I find a couple or 3 or 4 things I have to try on. You know the policy. All sales final, no refunds or exchanges after you leave the store. So with an armload of new clothes, I search and find what they call the Fitting Room.

More like a cow stall with half a door and no roof. And don’t make the mistake of asking what the price is. After I interrupted the lady reading her Senior Living magazine, she grabs the bull horn speaker and yells to the whole world, “Price check on men’s size 64 boxers!”

I waited three hours before I felt comfortable about coming out of the cattle stall. I just don’t like to shop! I’d almost rather go straight to the woodshed. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Just don’t send me back to the store!

So it is with a great deal of awe and respect and never-ending love that I joyfully tell you that my afore-mentioned sweet thang took it upon herself last week to go to the store and buy some new clothes for the old man’s birthday.

It was with cunning intelligence, I learned later, that she made and executed her plan. She checked the labels in my old ones for the right size before her shopping trip. Good thing, too, but I still think she would have been cute trying on those size 64 men’s boxers!

My good friend, Paul, the Apostle, has some things to say about new clothes. He had to change clothes himself one day out there on that dirt road to Damascus, so he knows what he’s talking about. The suit of clothes worn by Paul’s well-dressed man or woman, boy or girl can be found in Colossians 3:12-14.

According to Paul, since we are the chosen and dearly loved children of God, we’re supposed to wear clothes that will bring Him honor and make Him proud. Notice that little word ‘since.’ Paul was stating a fact, not a supposition. Not if we are, but since we are God’s chosen and dearly loved. And, can I throw this in right here? How on earth can He be honored by these baggy britches and earrings and purple hair that we see in the world today?

I’m sorry, but if we intend to honor our parents, we’re not going to show up in public looking like something that escaped from the circus. If that’s bad for me to feel that way, pray for me. But isn’t it a good thing that our Heavenly Father loves His children unconditionally?

Even though we might bring a tear to His eye, we’re still His. Like Paul said, we’re God’s chosen and dearly loved children. Therefore (v.12), since we’re His and dearly loved by Him, wouldn’t it be a good thing if we throw away all those old dirty habits, thoughts, expressions, and language that we used to wear before we became His children? And at least just try on the new clothes He’s offering us? After all, He owns the best clothing store in the world.

So, let’s do a little window shopping. Take a look at what the well-dressed child of God is wearing. Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Now those are fashions that are never out of style. And the perfect accessories, according to Paul in verse 13, are gettin’ along with each another, and forgiving one another. And holdin’ together this new suit of clothes (verse 14) is the belt of love, an exact duplicate of the perfect love our Father has for each one of us.

So, if I’ve seen you coming into town with your pants on the ground, please forgive me for what I’ve been thinkin’ about you. And let me offer you a new belt to hold your pants up. There’s no question about whether it will fit. God’s belt of love is big enough for everybody. One size fits all. And you wanna know what the best part is?

You don’t have to go to the store to try it on! Hallelujah! Can I get an Amen!