How is it possible that there are still 365 days in the year, but the summer season keeps shrinking? Where has it disappeared to? Has summer gone on a crash diet? Has it paid a cosmetic surgeon to perform liposuction? Have the other seasons eaten it? Whatever the reason, this truth remains: every year, there is less and less of that blissful stretch of life called summer.
I’m all for the autumn-eats-summer theory, because have you seen that bloated school-supply aisle? Seriously . . . how many different styles of binders do we need? And post-it notes in every shape and color, and zip-up pencil bags that carry more fashion than function.
This year, in an effort to hang onto the last skeletal pinch of sunny solstice as long as possible, I did a lot of my kids’ back-to-school shopping online. I’d much rather have new socks and mechanical pencils shipped to my front door than brave the chaotic crowds of crying kids and aggravated mothers. And I’m referring to my own kids, and to myself.
But there was one particular back-to-school necessity my son insisted had to be bought in a store. He wanted a new, brand name shirt, and he wanted to see it up close. He wanted to feel the texture. He wanted to try it on. I found the particular brand online and showed him all the options. “You won’t get that kind of variety in a small-town Texas store,” I told him.
He didn’t care.
I’m not opposed to shopping at actual brick-and-mortar stores. I prefer it, actually . . . just not during the back-to-school rush. It’s worse than the Christmas rush in so many ways. Mainly because there are no carols playing over the loudspeaker, no people in Santa suits ringing bells and shouting Ho-Ho-Ho, and no cute sales associates dressed as elves offering free samples of chocolate-chip-pumpkin-pie.
So I injected a caffeine port into my veins—okay, I just drank some coffee, took a deep, calming breath, and followed the mammoth-sized man-boy into the department store to look at shirts. He wanted a particular name-brand shirt, and of course it was the most expensive brand in the store.
“I saw a shirt exactly like that, in a different brand, at Wal-Mart. It was half the price,” I told him.
He just looked at me like I’d suddenly started speaking Chinese, and shook his head. “It’s not the same.”
He’s right. I was a teenager once. I can remember wanting a Gucci purse so badly I could almost taste the leather. Mom and Dad weren’t wealthy people, but they made it happen. Christmas morning of my junior year, I opened a small Gucci purse. It was one of the more affordable styles, and that was okay. I had a Gucci!
There’s something about having the genuine article, about knowing you’re wearing the real deal, that’s pretty special. And considering my son was such a great sport about ordering most of his stuff online, I figured I could be a team player and buy him this one thing.
As I paid for the shirt, I was reminded of another thing in my life that is the real deal . . . my faith in God, who loves me beyond measure. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my decades on this planet, it’s that there are a lot of knock-offs out there, trying to get my attention. They brag that they’ll provide satisfaction at a much lower cost than my faith . . . but they’re not the same. They’re imitations, and they don’t have the strength or the staying power of the God of the universe. As for the cost . . . yeah, it’s expensive. But the price has already been paid, and it’s offered to anyone who wants it, free of charge.
“For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God,” Ephesians 2:8.