Who Moved My Grocery Store?

Then Abram moved his tent, and went and dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre...and built an altar there to the Lord. (Genesis 13:18)

How do you feel about change? Not the kind that occasionally accumulates in the bottom of your purse and weighs it down, but the kind that picks you up and moves you from one place to another.

Personally, I’m all for change that I calculate and plan, map out and schedule. But changes that sneak up on me and take me by surprise...I’m not so much for those. Those kinds of changes tend to take my breath away, trip me up, shift the ground beneath my feet and leave me feeling unsteady and unsure.

We all encounter surprising changes in our lives now and then. Whether we experience a change in our careers, our health, our relationships or just our daily patterns, the unexpected jolt of a change can elicit any manner of emotions from us, including sadness, anger, resentment and even depression.

When I was a young mom living in LaMarque, Texas, I had gotten into the simple habit of grocery shopping at a nearby Randall’s food store. The move to LaMarque had not been easy for me and I had loathed the fact that I had left behind a really swanky and freshly remodeled Kroger in Georgia when I moved there. (Grocery stores are a big deal to me, by the way. You may not share my “need” for nice grocery stores, but just go with me on this, ok?) But when I found the large, accommodating and “nice” Randall’s, I had fallen in love. Shopping at Randall's was a weekly pleasure.

One weekday morning, after returning from a two-week family vacation, I loaded my two preschoolers into my mommy van and headed to Randall’s to replenish my empty cabinets and refrigerator. When I pulled into the parking lot I busied myself with unfastening my baby’s car seat carrier and directing my four-year old into the store. I found a grocery cart, positioned Abby’s carrier into it, told Daniel to hold onto the side of the buggy as usual and walked into the store. I was already walking into the produce section and slightly sensing something was amiss when a man frantically approached me and waved me down.

“Uh...Miss...we’re closed,” he said, flustered.

Stopping in my tracks and a little dazed, I quickly calculated in my head what day it was...not a holiday...not a Sunday...what? But I apologized for my ignorance anyhow.

Then, looking around and finally noticing the emptied shelves, I finally realized what he meant. The store, my Randall’s, my grocery store was closing! Not just for the day, but permanently.

Embarrassed, I hastily removed Abby from the cart, took Daniel by the hand and walked very quickly back to my mommy van. But before I even had Abby and Daniel fastened back into their seats, the tears began to flow. I sat in the van and wept for several minutes while my little boy looked on with saucer-big eyes. And then he started to cry, too.

I’d like to tell you that since that day, say, oh, 18 years ago or so, I handle change much more maturely, much more in stride. Nope. I don’t.

Like I said, if I instigate the change, that’s challenging enough, but I can do it, even with a little enthusiasm and anticipation. But you sneak up on me and change things...and I’m still likely to fall to pieces.

That’s why I’m so drawn to the story of Abram and his nephew Lot’s parting of ways, found in Genesis 13:1-18 (worth the read!). Sure Abram instigated the change, noting that it was necessary for the two families to go their separate ways with their large herds of livestock and their numerous servants. But I don’t think this chosen man of God, this man on a mission, this man who lived and moved and breathed on faith, was quite prepared for the extent to which Lot was about to change things. Lot didn’t just separate his flock from his uncle’s, but he took the best land with nary as much as a “thank you for your kindness” and moved his household away from his generous, faithful, loving elder.

The way I see it, Lot pretty much dissed Abram. Not only were their cows and sheep feeding on different grass, but the two men would now live very separate lives. Abram had invited Lot to join him on the journey of a lifetime, but Lot chose, at this point, to cash in his chips and take his winnings early. (I'm picking up on Abram's sorrow and disappointment as I read the Lord's instructions to Abram in verse 14 where He says, "Lift your eyes now..." I can certainly understand why Abram would have felt a little downcast here. Can't you?)

And yet...

Maybe Abram sat in his tent and cried a little, the way I sat in my mommy van and wept over my closed grocery store. But he didn’t sit there and cry too long. Because verse 18 tells me Abram moved his tent, went and dwelt in a new place. Moved. Went. Dwelt.

And that speaks to me. I’ve gone through some changes recently. And I’ve sat in my mommy van and cried. But I’m working on following Abram’s example too. I’m moving. I’m going on. And I’m learning to dwell in a new place.

Oh! And did you notice one more thing Abram did when he encountered this unwelcomed change? He “built an altar there to the Lord.” He worshiped God. And I think that may be the key to handling change: to worship God in the midst of the change. To bow to His sovereignty, His goodness, His provision. To confess His trustworthiness, His love, His wisdom.

Encountering an unwelcomed change? I get it. Honestly I do. But after we’ve had a good cry, let’s move, go, dwell in a new place, and worship God. 

How do you handle unexpected changes? Do they throw you or excite you? How do you learn to dwell in a "new place?"

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