The Time I Almost Shoplifted


Let's start with my excuses: It was a crazy day. We lived in Atlanta at the time and I was sleep-deprived and under-caffeinated, wearing yoga pants and a messy bun. I was carrying my black purse on my shoulder, tugging it constantly as it slid down my arm. I walked into the grocery store, grabbed a basket, and started gathering the items from my list.

I made the trip through the store pretty quickly, and all I had left to grab was a new toothbrush. I held my cell phone in one hand and grabbed the toothbrush with the other hand. Without thinking, I slipped the toothbrush into my purse instead of my basket.*

(*Yes, I realize this sounds like the guys discovered with drugs in their pockets, arguing to the police, “These ain’t my pants!”)

I made it down the rest of the aisle before I realized my mistake. I started sweating immediately, like I had already committed the crime, and yanked the toothbrush out of my purse and placed it firmly in my basket. I waved around my phone and placed it back in my purse, like I had meant to do originally. I shook my head enthusiastically and started laughing at myself, like some sort of loon—hoping that anyone who might have been watching on camera would realize that I am just an idiot and not a thief.

I was still shaking when I headed to check out, waiting for the manager to jump out at me and confront my negligence, but that never happened. No one even noticed. And that’s when I realized how easy it is to steal.

Thus began my life as a thief on the run.


Okay, that isn’t true. I would never have the nerve to take something without paying (example: nervous sweats when I almost accidentally stole), even if my beliefs lined up with the lifestyle.

While I watched the ignorant checkout lady ring up my $2 toothbrush, I sighed relief, like I had narrowly escaped a firing squad. On the drive home, I kept looking in my rearview mirror, still half-expecting to see those dreaded red and blue lights.

I thought about this experience the rest of the day. I thought about shoplifting and jail and toothbrushes, thieves and desperation and law-breaking. It would be a terrible way to live, constantly looking over your shoulder and buying time, worried you would be caught at any moment and the charade would be over.


Isn’t this how we sometimes act about God, too? We try to pretend we have it all together, but we know deep-down that we are a nothing short of a giant mess. The guilt starts to settle in and we wait for God to strike us down or punish us for our endless list of imperfections. We constantly look over our shoulders, wondering if we barely missed the lightning strike. We live timidly and afraid of this God we serve. We check the rearview mirror for those dreaded red and blue lights. 

But the beautiful truth is that we do not have to live this way. His mercy and grace on the cross changed everything for us. And if we believe this wonderful gospel story—I mean, really believe it and surrender to Him—then the grace of God follows us; His blood saves us from ourselves. We do not have to wait for the firing squad. Instead, we eagerly await the glory of heaven. This does not mean we succumb to our sins, but we seek for our lives to align with His holiness all the more. 

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
— Romans 6:1-4

I cannot get over these truths. I keep trying to understand grace— like there’s a dictionary definition that will encompass its grandiosity. Like it’s a math equation we can solve or a puzzle piece that fits perfectly into place. But grace cannot be summed up so easily. I cannot muster up enough metaphors to describe its beauty. I am starting to think that grace can’t really be understood, only felt.

I feel grace at the oddest of moments, when I’m cooking dinner or driving down the interstate. I feel grace when I’m running errands or while I’m dog-earing pages of a good book. It seeps into my senses, smelling like lavender and glory all at once—bringing tears and smiles and gratitude.

I don’t know; maybe these moments aren’t odd places to feel grace. Maybe the routineness of it all is actually what makes grace stand out. Grace is the stream in the desert, the song with only the good notes. Grace is a sunset; we can see it a thousand times and still stop to admire its beauty. We did nothing to deserve it or earn it, nothing to be worthy of its experience. But there it is, day after day, in the tiniest and holiest of glimpses.

And I don’t have to understand it completely to stop and say to myself, “Wow. There it is: grace.”

So I may not fully comprehend this way of grace, but I am fully embracing it. The atonement and the blood and the cross, the breaking of chains and turning ashes into beauty and the freedom from the law—I am living in it, running to it, falling on my knees in gratitude for it. 

Because His grace is enough, every single time. 

Alex Fly