What would Brother Lawrence do?

I am in a fitting room at Walmart. I always put off buying clothes–this kind of clothes, especially–as long as I can. It’s time.

There is no clerk at the desk right outside the fitting rooms and two of the three rooms are locked. I wait until a woman with children coming out of the one for disabled shoppers holds the door for me. I know I shouldn’t be using the disabled room so I feel pressured to hurry.

Since there’s no clerk, I don’t have a placard stating the number of items I’m taking in with me to hang on the door. Maybe when she comes back she’ll think I took in more items than I claim, that I am wearing layers of them and plan to walk out of the store in them and she’ll call security.

The phone on the desk right outside the door is ringing–and ringing–and ringing. The sustained noise provides a back-drop to this scene the entire time I am in the fitting room, about fifteen minutes.

I have brought with me into the cubicle several little hangers of items, now all tangled together. As I try to separate them, some fall on the floor and as I lean over to pick them up, my glasses, hooked into the top of my shirt, fall on the floor, too. It’s hot. I’m irritable. I hate shopping, I don’t trust my own judgment, and I don’t like change.

Some of the items are marked with arbitrary sizes, like 6, 8, 10, and 12. Some are marked with measurements (which I haven’t taken for years), like 34, 36, 38, 40. Some are marked S, M, L, and XL. Can’t someone standardize this industry?

I’d forgotten there are some things I still cannot fasten without my husband’s help (residual effects of tendonitis) and he’s out of earshot looking at jeans.

I am backing out of some garment so tight I’m not sure how I ever got into it in the first place–when my cell phone rings. Both arms stuck over my head, I lean over and feel for my discarded shorts, find a pocket with a lump in it and pull out my phone. Peering down the tube of the garment I see the call is from “Restricted,” a friend who does not live on our way to Bible study (since we are close enough to walk) but who wants a ride there tonight. I drop the cell phone and let it keep ringing, too.

Now my husband is at the door. I want him to get a bigger version of this and a black version of that. (He doesn’t mind doing things like that. Bright spot in story.) I try to describe, gesturing with a bare arm outside the door, which racks they are on. He comes back and tells me they don’t have a bigger one in that brand and they don’t carry black versions of the other item. (Polka dot, yes. Black, no.)

Like Jackie Kennedy, I really want things to match right down to the skin. Ain’t gonna happen this time.

In the midst of the struggling and the mirror shock wondering how much all of this is going to cost and the sound of screaming kids thumping along the aisles and the ringing phones and the still-absent clerk, I find myself wondering how Brother Lawrence would continue his conversation with God if he were here.

At this point, mine is running something like this: Lord Jesus, I’m jangled by all the choices and nervous (what if I choose wrong–I can’t bring this kind of stuff back) and sweaty. (Do other shoppers sweat on things and then not buy them?) I don’t like doing this, I want to just leave everything here and walk out of the store and–where the heck is that clerk? That phone is driving me to DISTRACTION! I am going to go rip it off the hook and scream into it, “You’ve let this phone ring about a THOUSAND TIMES. How many does it take to convince you there is NO ONE HERE to take your call! The sales clerk has GONE AWAY. For all I know, she is NEVER coming back. I am the only one here and I am a customer, seriously considering never being your customer again. STOP CALLING! You are driving me CRAZY! Amen.

Somehow I know Brother Lawrence is onto something important but I don’t think he ever dealt with trying on unmentionables in a Walmart fitting room.


About Jessica Renshaw

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6 Responses to What would Brother Lawrence do?

  1. Diane Lowell says:

    I love your writings. I can feel myself going all the feelings and contortions with you (I am not a shopper either). Maybe on a day when you are already not feeling like shopping, Walmart is not a great choice. You are so small you may want to try Forever 21 for shirts (I have never bought “unmentionables” in there.) Don’t be put off by all the teenagers around. I like the atmosphere at the Land’s End section of Sears in Los Altos. They will even order things for you in the catalog and send things back if need be. And some of the jean styles actually come up to you waist. Even their bathing suits look good on those of use not inclined to wear a bathing suit. They have a wide range of sizes and fits; the material and workmanship are excellent. They also have a diversity of catalogs (not sure about “unmentionables”). I have never had a problem with their clothes or service. It might be somewhat more pleasant for you. Of course, I go to the big department stores too, but I don’t care too. (Unmentionables? Macy’s in Lakewood has a great selection, no one bothers you unless you ask for help, and the sale prices are good. Nordstrom has professional fitters for you too, if you need that.) Love to all, Diane

  2. Thanks for the helpful suggestions, Diane. Five years from now, when I venture out to shop again, I’ll try those stores. “Jeans that actually come up to your waist”–that would be worth the trip!

  3. Delightful to read someone who is transparent. I think Brother Lawrence led a far quieter life. If you and I lived in a monastery our focus would be much different. Like you, my goal is that “Pray without ceasing” motive and most of the time it works. One thing I also know about Jesus: He knows us better than we know ourselves and I do truly know that He understands the complications that come our way. I skimmed on down thorugh your weblogs from the past week, and decided to follow you. Perhaps you will drop by my spot now and then too. God bless you, Jessica, as you endeavor to live a life pleasing to God, not for reward, but because you simply love Him.

  4. Thank you for your comment, fellow lamb. I just checked out your blog and signed up to follow you, too!

  5. Thanks. Seems as if we might be going in the same direction. I collect sheep, by the way. I post maybe three times a week during the school year. I tutor. It depends on the age of my students. High school takes much more preparation than flash cards learning state capitals! I think you and I both just want to share what God teaches us to encourage someone else. So, we’ll hold each other up.

  6. Yes, let’s! Ba-a-a-ah!

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