The other week, I happened to stop at a houseware store. I had been there a few times before and knew the selection of dishes was a bit spotty, but it was a good place for getting American-sized drinking glasses [and industrial strength plastic shopping bags that can hold fifty pounds which, when you live in a country of tissue-thin plastic bags that rip if the yogurt container is put in the wrong way, makes you want to buy something just to get a bag.] Then I saw this serving bowl.
There were two things that drew me to it. First was the beautiful but simple design in my favorite color. The bowl is Portuguese porcelain, not cheap crockery, thin and yet heavy. Second, I looked at the tag, and ten dollars seemed like a great price, even a “too good to be true” price. And I love a bargain almost as much as I love a beautiful everyday object.
It was only then that I fully grasped the meaning of the store’s name, Direct Usine. In other words, Factory Direct. Now in defense of my cluelessness, the store doesn’t scream factory outlet [well–except for the name ] It’s on a major shopping street in the city, not thirty miles out of town surrounded by dozens of other factory outlets. It’s stocked with first quality merchandise, not seconds and cast-offs. The price tags show one price. There are no markdowns, no
$75 now $20. There are no 50% off signs. In fact, I’ve never seen a ‘sale’ sign on this store.
When I got home with my beautiful bowl, I looked it up online , curious to see what the regular price was. [What kind of person does that, you wonder? A bargain-loving infomaniac]. It turned out the bowl originally sold for $100. I hadn’t really saved 90 dollars, because I wouldn’t pay a hundred dollars for a serving bowl. But I’m happy to know my ten dollar bowl is worth a lot more than I paid for it.
So what do you do when you find a beautiful bargain? My first impulse is to tell friends who come to the house, “Look at this amazing bowl–and guess how much I paid for it? Almost nothing.” My second impulse is to let other friends know about this great factory outlet, especially if they are new and are setting up house. I care about my friends and want them to save money while having good quality, nicely designed things. Frankly, it’s a little selfish to keep it to myself.
Living in a developing country with spotty distribution, I have called friends when I have discovered barbeque sauce, not on sale, but *for* sale, when cheddar cheese has appeared. I’ve also told people about our honest, cheap mechanic [The one who tells us, “No that part doesn’t need to be repaired, not yet”] and our first-class frame shop. That’s what friends are for.
Jesus is another beautiful bargain I want to pass on. God put the world square with Himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what He is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ Himself now: Become friends with God; He’s already a friend with you. [II Corinthians 5:18-20 in The Message]
The free gift of God’s grace is something I want to let other people know about. That’s what the woman who Jesus met at the well did. When she and Jesus were finished with their conversation, the woman went into the village telling people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did: could this be the Christ?”
I don’t want to keep quiet. I don’t want to hoard God’s grace for myself. I want to share what I have found. I know where you can find the love you’re looking for. Come and see.