How I Learned About Rejoicing in the Sock Aisle at Target

This is the story of how I ended up crying my eyes out in the sock aisle of Target … and I learned about rejoicing.

Oh, the adventures a woman can have at Target, am I right ladies?! The possibilities are endless, even when the paycheck is small. This particular venture that beckoned me to the big red bull’s eye was not a usual fanciful pit stop for me. I knew that. It might be hard. I knew that, too.

And I went anyway.

I walked slowly through the automatic doors and felt the rush of inside air blow cold in my face. Methodically grabbing a red-wheeled cart, I breathed in and out, and determinately walked past the aisles of my regular perusing. While the sweater cardigans and housewares called out to me, I had come for a very specific reason. I would not be deterred.

You see, just the day before, my sister and lifelong friend told me wonderful news. “Surprise!” after 5 years and 5 children, the Lord had blessed them with new life. With her youngest in kindergarten, she had just found out that they were expecting again. In her tenderness, she confided her concerns and expressed her joy over this God-answered prayer. She even confessed that she didn’t own any more baby clothes or bottles or any of the paraphernalia that go along with wee ones.

Being a pragmatist and wanting to show my love and support, of course, I went to Target! I guided the wheels of my empty shopping cart towards the foreign aisles of newborn novelties.

And … I stood there.

And … I gripped the handle till my knuckles were white.

And … I smelled the sweet unfamiliar fragrance of tiny little things.

And … I stared down the aisles full of wares I never let myself dream of.

And … I felt my chest ache with the all too familiar knowing that this visit would not fill my basket with items for myself or an infant life with my DNA.

And … I willed myself to keep walking.

I walked to the pacifiers and blinked steadily at the sea of choices. I reached out mechanically and dropped one in my cart, telling the ache in my heart to keep quiet. I went to the bottles and attempted smiles at the faded memories of what brand my sister used when feeding her children before. I went to the aisle with bibs and socks and clothes the size of my forearm and adjusted my breathing to slow my changing heart rate.

And then … a mom walked by. Coddling a sleeping infant in a front sling, swaying with that natural rhythm that all mothers instinctively know. She kissed his bald head and heaved a whiff of real live newborn scent.

And. I. Lost. It.

I ran to the nearest aisle away from all of the things that reminded me of empty unfulfilled prayers and my own desperate bargains with God.

And I cried. And cried. And cried. Gut-wrenching, clenched-in sobs, so as not to disturb the rest of the public setting. I stifled through years of longing and wondering and obvious questions that still remained unanswered.

I didn’t begrudge my sister this new joy. In fact, I was genuinely excited about her announcement and couldn’t wait to utterly spoil another bundle. But years of watching God dole out His wholehearted yesses, while in those same years feel Him hold the answers to my prayers at bay had rubbed raw my mustered bravery.

In my heart, I ran to the Throne Room and threw myself at the mercy seat to beg for enough composure to make it out in one piece. I expected to hear sweet words of comfort from God (or at least sanity) that I could rely on when I’m losing my mind in public. But this is all that my heart heard: “Rejoice with those who rejoice.”

I was so startled by the Holy Spirit’s words that I finally looked up and realized I was in the sock aisle at Target. With my puffy face and blotchy eyes and drippy nose, I realized I couldn’t breathe and I did the only illogical thing that a woman who has lost her dignity would do. I reached out for a pair of socks and … blew my nose in them. Oh yes, I did. (This is not a proud moment, ladies, but this is exactly what happened.) 

Really?  I thought. I rolled my eyes heavenward, disappointed at my answer and quibbled: Well, that’s not very helpful! In fact, it’s the very opposite of helpful. Where are the promises about the Lord being near to the broken-hearted or giving us heart desires? The Holy Spirit chooses now to remind me to rejoice? To rejoice

I stormed out of Target, headed for my car, reached for my Bible and plopped open to Romans 12:15. It reads: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.” As I did some digging in a favorite online resource, and softened my heart to the Word of the Lord, little did I know that this was exactly what I needed to hear.

This verse is not a suggestion or a question. It is a command.

The Apostle Paul understands both rejoicing and weeping with others as necessary attitudes and behaviors for believers in Christ. To ‘rejoice with those who rejoice’ is to find joy in the circumstances of another with the same enthusiasm and vigor as though it were happening to us.

I have been guilty of focusing on the weeping with others because, frankly, it is easier to hurt with someone than to see God’s blessings unfold in the life of another. But this is why the rejoicing is so critically important.  It divorces us from our need for self-love, self-soothing, and (my favorite go-to) self-pity, putting the focus on someone other than ourselves.

This isn’t a resigned smile or a determined happiness, this is joy that is genuine and exuding. This is entering into the rejoicing with them. Allowing yourself to fully participate in their joy because the Lord understands that you need moments of joy just as much as whomever you are rejoicing over.

Here is the blessing that I discovered on that day. By engaging in someone else’s rejoicing, I get to experience joy myself! And don’t we all need some more joy in our lives?! I don’t begrudge the moment of flesh hesitation…the one where you end up crying your eyes out in a sock aisle or drenching a pillow with tears. It doesn’t come easily to put ourselves aside. And Romans 12:15 provides for weeping as well. The encouragement here is that we don’t have to do that alone. The Lord is such a gracious and compassionate God that He provides community for days of joy and nights of tears.

I shut my Bible and texted a friend of mine to pray for me as I got back out of my car. Walking through the aisles of Target, I found my abandoned shopping cart and went to the fateful sock section. Finding the unfortunate pair that I had…well…used, I put them in my cart and smiled to myself. I was able to finish my celebration shopping trip complete with bottles, bibs, pacifier, the most adorable onesie I could find…and a random pair of pink and grey socks.

And then I headed straight to SELF-checkout!