Black Friday: A Shopping Day from Hell

“Active shooter alert. Do not go to Osan. 100% notification.”

That was the text that my husband received from his company commander this week while sitting in the living room sipping a cup of coffee. We were just there yesterday purchasing household items, to include rugs for our home that cost way too much money. I’d tell you how much, but at some point my mother is going to read this and she’ll freak if she finds out how much we spent.

Bill fell to his knees and prayed for the people involved even though, at that moment, we had no idea who they might be or what the circumstances were.

It was after his prayer that thoughts started running through my head. Having just moved to a foreign country with the military, all of my preconceived notions – developed in America – no longer applied. Does this happen all the time in a deployed region? Is this sort of thing going to become routine? What have I gotten myself and my children into by volunteering to come out here? These thoughts developed into even more serious ones, leading me straight into a rabbit hole. What will I do if North Korea attacks South Korea? What is my escape plan? And then I gazed at the beautiful, expensive rugs we’d just bought the day before in the same area where people were potentially being killed at that very moment. Do we have renter’s insurance on this home? I’d hate to lose the money we’ve just spent on our new decor should we need to evacuate in a hurry and leave everything behind.

Yes, I had that thought. And it ran through my selfish little brain during the worst possible moment ever.

As it turns out, the active shooter alert was a false alarm; a school principal being cautious for the sake of the school children’s safety. A relief, no doubt, and in a few hours life as we knew it in Korea was back to normal again.

While I’m making confessions, let me tell you about what else I did within the same 24 hour period of this rug-extravaganza Osan trip. Bill and I had stayed up late to make online purchases during the Black Friday peak shopping period for the items we “needed” in our new home. We’d compiled a list for a month, knowing that we’d buy the items when this deeply discounted retail shopping day finally occurred. Although we’d blown our kids inheritance over the course of two days, Bill and I had little remorse about our purchases, given that they were all at a discount of some kind or another. This stuff had to be bought. At least we didn’t pay full price.

My guilt for being caught up in the material, to the point that it overshadowed potential death just minutes from my home, didn’t kick in until I saw this video, which appeared on my Facebook feed a few days later.

And just like that, in 50 seconds worth of a video clip, I felt selfish and stupid. I may not have been in a physical line this year, anxiously awaiting my turn at a great retail deal, but, in honor of Black Friday, I did furiously pound away at my keyboard, typing in my credit card information on multiple websites. And, before my computer could even cool down, Bill and I whisked the kids straight out the door and into a whole-day shopping trip – we left the house at 10:30am and didn’t return until 6pm – in Osan. We bought so much stuff – rugs take up a lot of room – that we had to make two trips home. To make matters worse, as I watched this clip, I knew deep down that had I been in America for this year’s Black Friday, I just might have found myself in an actual line somewhere. After all, I’ve done it before, pregnant with twins.

It was at this point – when I felt selfish and stupid – that I knew it was time to open up my Bible. I turned to Ecclesiastes, a book written by a king who had everything he ever wanted, including wisdom, a gift specifically given to him by our Lord Himself. King Solomon’s wisdom led to a very jaded personal perspective on life; the whole book of Ecclesiastes drips with apathetic disdain for the things of this world. And yet, there is so much truth (and wisdom) to be found among the verses.

Ecclesiastes 5:10-15

Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless. As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owners except to feast their eyes on them?

The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether they eat little or much,
but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep.

I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owners, or wealth lost through some misfortune, so that when they have children there is nothing left for them to inherit. Everyone comes naked from their mother’s womb, and as everyone comes, so they depart. They take nothing from their toil that they can carry in their hands.

As much as I hate to admit it, I am no better than the folks who ravaged the stores this past Friday, shoving and pushing their way through to the front of lines, carelessly trampling their fellow-man for the sake of a 10% savings. We all put ourselves and our family, our financial goals and material desires ahead of everyone else.

But scripture tells us that, as “God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience…. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:12-17).”

In the video of people pushing and climbing their way to the 60″ TV pile I do not see deeds done in the name of God. I see greed and gluttony, selfishness and worshiping of false idols. I imagine the Devil there, floating above the masses, smiling as he watches the hysteria and chaos.

My family contributed to the $50.9 billion in retail sales this week too. Did you? Did you spend in the name of God? Or did you purchase as we did, in the name of the Thomas Household?

As we move forward into the Christmas season, where shopping abounds, let’s make our purchases in the name of the House of the Lord. Let’s take our Heavenly Father along with us: into our Hallmark store and onto our local Christmas tree lot. Let’s spread good cheer and the good news of the birth of our Savior. Let our deeds be a warm, Christian smile to those around us, an invitation to our Christmas church service and a helping hand.

We are God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved. Let’s start acting like it.

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