For Thanksgiving, my wife and I like to spend time with family. We recently flew up to New England and stayed in my parents' home. My two sisters still live in the beautiful log cabin, and my brother from Burlington drove up to eat as much turkey, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce as our stomachs could handle. I enjoy being a son, with my dad at the head of the table as he prays a blessing over our meal.
The day goes by too quickly, and I soon hear conversations among the ladies about a plan for Black Friday. After a late movie, we drive to the store. Miles before we get there, we see lines of cars waiting to get into the parking lot. After much slow driving, and listening to Christmas music, my wife and two sisters jump out of the car and head into the store. They wanted a cheap laptop and a discounted GPS and they needed to get in line immediately.
Vehicles are parked in every conceivable spot -- under trees, on the curb, nearly wrapped around signs. People are everywhere. With so much activity, it surprises me that more people don't get injured each year.
I end up driving onto a hill. I'm not the only one there, so I figure I won't get a ticket. I run inside, dodging carts full of televisions and other cars that can't find a hill to drive up onto. I get in and only the most aggressive of people can move from aisle to aisle. Every person moves differently. Some families move like phalanxes with orchestrated plans ready to snatch their prizes and get out. Others look like wandering nomads, not sure exactly why they're in the store in first place.
I was the latter. I met my wife, looked around and then convinced one of my sisters to walk to the Wendy's to have a Frosty while the other two waited for the GPS. An hour later I got a call that they were leaving the store. The GPS was in hand, but the laptops had been sold before we had even entered the store. We returned home at 3 a.m. and slept well into the morning.
My wife will tell you I complained a bit too much through the whole process, but I will admit Black Friday impresses me on a few levels. The level of determination for people to save money and get the best bang for a buck is tremendous. In the spirit of "extreme couponing," this is a smorgasbord for those inclined to save. I'm also impressed by the determination of retailers to get the masses to consider their products. There is a meeting of the minds here. Retailers provide a moment of extreme excitement, an adventure that brings them out of their normal routine for possibly great rewards. The people also agree to come with wallets that have been otherwise pinched, to make this short time a sort of flash mob experience that becomes part of the entertainment.
In a time when life has become harder for some, it is nice to see people passionate about something. While we rush out and find the gifts we want to give to others or that item we have been waiting for all year, I remember how passionately God's spirit is moving among the people of the earth, seeing us as a prize to be won.
Each person who realizes how much God loves him or her and turns to be loved is like a laptop -- but of more infinite value to the one who created each of us than any shiny object we could receive. I imagine that when God looks across the sea of people living today, he sees something like a messy retail store full of potential. I imagine the plans God has made to claim each of us, wrap us up and then give us back to the world as a gift of joy and celebration. We know that there are some things worth getting up in the middle of the night for, even losing sleep over. And did you know that God has spent an eternity planning and seeking after you?