Grocery shopping is not my favorite activity in the world. And yet, I seem to end up at Wal-Mart every day.

Its not that I don’t have a great system for keeping a shopping list (I’m actually a really detailed list maker), but the craziness of life just keeps throwing more and more of those urgent “one item shopping trips” my way.

So, whether I have my usual list (already written in order of items as they will occur on the shelf from the back to the front of the store), or I just have one item to grab, efficiency is always my goal. I want to get in and get out as fast as possible.

I recognize that my eagerness for speed and efficiency does not lend itself to socializing and pouring into others as I encounter them while shopping –and that is for another blog…

Today, however, I want to talk about what happens at the end of the shopping adventure… that’s right… the phrase we all dread: choosing a checkout line.

For me, choosing the right line is a science (that I haven’t mastered). Forgive me for stereotyping, but I analyze each line for length, number of carts (not people), average shopper age, number of items in each cart, speed of the line, age of the checker, and overall look of competence in the checker. Whew… you can see why I dread going through the exercise every day.

It’s a lot like going into a construction zone on a multi-lane highway. You have to pick a lane and just hope that it’s the fastest.

But, like the highway scenario, my checkout-line-choice-system rarely works. Which, as funny as it sounds, is a great tool of sanctification in my life.

For instance, two days ago at Wal-Mart, I was approaching the checkout lines at the same time as another man. He chose his line and I chose mine. I was certain I had him beat.

Would you believe (true story) that he finished before me? Not only that, but he apparently forgot an item. Believe it or not, he went back, picked up an extra loaf of bread and checked out a second time before I checked out the first time!

Meanwhile, I’m witnessing two “customer service representative” conferences in front of my line while noticing a lady with more than 20 items in her shopping cart ahead of me.

So how does all of that work toward my sanctification? By reminding me that only God can change my heart.

I can act patient all day long. You know what I mean –smiling when the lady turns around and says “sorry” as she pulls out 20 coupons and asks for a manager to verify whether an offer is still good, or giving a fake chuckle as the little boy drops a bottle of Cairo syrup ahead of me in line causing a massive “clean up” effort.

Anyone can act patient on the outside. The real issue is what is going on inside.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty good at covering up an angry heart with a fake smile or masking impatience with a deceptive look of serenity.

While I can change my outward appearance, only God can change my inward disposition. As hard as I try, I can’t make my heart be patient. But God can.

The Bible describes patience as a “fruit of the Spirit,” not a fruit of the flesh (Galatians 5:22). Its something that God grants us by His Grace. He grows these Christ-like attributes within us throughout our life making them accessible for our use in honoring Him.

And He is pleased when we pray and ask for the fruit of the Spirit to grow in our lives. Remember, Jesus said, “What father among you, if his son asks fora fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11-13).

Not only that, but Jesus commands, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me” (John 15:4).

The growth of spiritual fruit in the life of a believer is just like the growth of physical fruit. We rely entirely upon God for the seed, water, sunlight, and miracle of life (even in plants). However, we are responsible for planting, tending, and harvesting. In other words, we can’t sit back, stew in our impatience and say, “God will change me when He’s ready. Until then, I have a free-pass to be a jerk.” Instead, we must begin tending the fruit He is growing in our heart.

So what do I need to add to my shopping list today? “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

Lord, help me tend the fruit you are developing in me –even in the checkout line at Wal-Mart.