I was on my period. I hadn’t had enough to eat. It was about 11am, and I was at the grocery store with two little boys. We grabbed some bananas and carrots, and then I saw them: organic grape tomatoes. With the exception of one picky eater, my family enjoys snacking on these little red gems. So I picked up a package to examine it. Some of the tomatoes looked a bit wilted, so I placed it back on the temperature-controlled shelf and began to reach for another box.
And that’s when it happened. The box didn’t exactly like the way I had set it down, apparently, so in protest it decided to slowly lean forward until it fell to the ground, bouncing from cauliflower to lettuce to floor, where the box finally burst open, allowing over half of the precious fruit to scatter on the icky grocery store tile. Since there was no store clerk around to tell me, “Oh, it’s ok, I’ll take care of that,” I bent over and picked up every last tomato, closed up the box, and put it dutifully in my cart, with the words, “You break it you buy it,” spinning around in my head.
I thought at this point God was trying to teach me something: despite my being a bit of a grump about the whole thing, at least I did the right thing by picking them up and paying for the potentially damaged goods. But God wasn’t done with me yet, nor was He done with the grape tomatoes.
We meandered through the store, grabbing the things on my list (or was this the day that I went in for nothing more than peanut butter and made a list in my head as I shopped and ended up with half a basket full of groceries?), until we finally made it to the checkout line and then headed home.
My blood sugar levels were dropping by now and my muscles felt a bit weak. But we had to unload and put away the groceries before sitting down to eat lunch, so I got to it. I rearranged a few things in the fridge, managing to make room for the abundance of groceries I hadn’t planned on bringing home today (but when you’re out on Monday you might as well make the most of it and try to get what you need for the week so that by the time Thursday rolls around you can be at home doing something productive instead of having to go out to the store again, right?).
Then there they were, the last item to put away, those floor-germ-infested tomatoes. I figured I’d give them a preliminary rinsing off before putting them in the fridge using just water, until I thought better of it and pulled the vegetable cleaning spray out from under the sink. Spray, spray, spray. Toss, toss, toss. Rinse, rinse, rinse. That wasn’t so bad. Maybe I’ll just do this again before serving them so I feel confident that they’re clean.
And then it happened again. As I was turning toward the fridge, my limbs defied me and, after bumping into the refrigerator door, I dropped the box of tomatoes onto the floor…the kitchen floor that didn’t get cleaned last Friday like it was supposed to. And, sure enough, the box opened on impact and all those clean tomatoes went rolling on the floor, under the lip of the fridge, the oven, and the dishwasher.
I started to get angry. One of those less-than-justified “Why, God?!?” moments. But then I felt the tension in my clenched fists subside as I realized this was from His hand—not a curse, but an opportunity. An opportunity to see that I don’t have it all together. Not only am I not as physically in control as I’d like to be (hello, dropping the same box of tomatoes on the floor TWICE in the span of about 90 minutes), but neither do I really have things together emotionally or spiritually. I was ready to raise my fist at heaven, figuratively speaking, to whine and complain and throw a grown-up tantrum…over some tomatoes. Forget that I “did the right thing” in purchasing them at the store. I grumbled against the God of heaven. These tomatoes were simply a small chisel in the hand of a master craftsman, working to chip away at the hardened, bitter stone of my heart, in fact rebuking my self-righteousness by revealing to me that there was work to be done there at all.
On many occasions this kind of scrutiny, though private, would cause me to despair because I wasn’t living up to the perfect standard that I so desperately desire to meet. But in this instance, those tomatoes became a means of grace for me. As I washed them off again, with tears beginning to form in my eyes, I realized that Jesus came to save sinners. He came to die for sinners, to make them clean. And I am one. There is hope for me. There is grace for me, a sinner.
Like those tomatoes that needed washed yet again, so did I. What a joy that His gift of forgiveness, love, and cleansing is not given begrudgingly, as I grumbled at first to clean the tomatoes, but freely. In the very moment that I knew my sin and unworthiness, I also knew that “It is finished,” and I am redeemed, restored, and loved.
There are a lot more elaborate ways the Lord could choose to show me my sin and His love. But this simple little demonstration was sufficient to show that my attitude in such a small thing revealed big things about my heart. But “where sin abounded grace abounded all the more.” His mercy and grace are infinitely bigger than my sin. And so I thank God for the grace I found in an ornery package of grape tomatoes.