Wednesday, December 23, 2009

lead us not into (Christmas) temptation

The side mirror on our car got smashed last week. Okay, okay, I admit it - I smashed the mirror reversing into our slightly opened gate. I think it was the wind's fault for blowing the gate open. Or mine for not noticing. Whatever.

There are things about this time of year that really aren't good for me. I mostly avoid shops, because that's the only effective strategy I've found to overcome a ten year addiction to spending. I go to department stores twice a year, once for winter clothes for the family and once for summer clothes. That keeps me safely out of the way of temptation.

Except for at Christmas time.

I can resist temptation during the first Christmas shopping trip. By the second trip, and certainly by the third, shopping gets under my skin. Things I wouldn't have dreamed of buying a week ago suddenly seem perfectly reasonable at the price. I buy things we don't need and don't really want. The pile of gifts under the tree gets larger.

It's an odd way to celebrate the birth of the One who gave up everything and made himself nothing, who exchanged his riches for our poverty, so that he could give his life for us (Phil 2:5-11).

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I was heading south to buy a new side mirror for the car the other day. I was aware that en route was a shopping centre where I'd seen a very cute jacket that my son didn't need. My wheels were about to turn towards the shopping centre, until I realised that somehow I'd passed the turn-off - one I'd never missed before. I comforted myself with the thought that I still had time to go to the shops on the way home.

I found myself wandering through the wilds of an unfamiliar suburb, fathoms deep in bumper-to-bumper traffic, lost on the wrong part of the map, trying to find the Toyota parts shop. After three quarters of an hour of increasing tension - I was running late for a school pick-up - I found the shop down an obscure side street, bought the mirror, and drove to school with no time to spare for a detour to the shops.

And that's how God used heavy traffic and a misread map - of all things! - to keep me from a choice I knew to be sinful.

One small example of God's severe mercy. One thing not bought that we didn't really need. One sinful habit unfed, at least on this occasion, and growing that little bit weaker in consequence. One tiny taste of my heavenly Father's loving discipline (Heb 12:7-11). One renewed commitment to spend less on us and more on others. One answered prayer - a prayer I hope to be praying again in 11 months time:

Our Father in Heaven, lead us not into (Christmas) temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. (Matt 6:9, 13)

images are from wockerjabby and Fabi Dorighello at flickr

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