It’s a well-kept secret (until now): my parents and my grandma were smugglers. Worse, they took me along to get the goods. I sat in the back seat of a getaway car, and I even helped deliver an illegal substance to family members, neighbors and friends.
I guess that made me a smuggler, too.
The illegal substance was yellow-dyed oleomargarine. In the Dairy State, buying it, which cost less than butter, was like stealing a farmer’s dairy cows and holding them for ransom.
In 1895, the Wisconsin State Legislature passed a law forbidding the manufacture or sale of butter-colored margarine. (One guy was even sentenced to 18 months in prison for selling the stuff!) Oleomargarine remained illegal in Wisconsin well into the 1960s.
The ban on oleomargarine led good people to do bad things.
On Saturdays, we traveled across the state line to Illinois where oleo was legal, and we bought it at a little mom and pop store called Packy’s.
Dad drove the getaway car, mom rode shotgun, I carried a blanket to cover up the goods, and we sent Grandma in to do the deed. A few minutes later, she slipped into the back seat beside me with a case of oleomargarine in her olive-green, shopping bag. I put the contraband on my lap, covered it up with the blanket, and off we went looking like a typical 1950’s family out for a drive.
Smuggling margarine wasn’t THAT bad. We didn’t feel guilty for doing it. In fact, most adults got a pleasurable little rush when they put those fake butter sticks into their refrigerators. They had gotten away with it—and it felt good.
Sometimes Christians feel a rush when they get away with little things that they know are wrong, things that they think don’t matter.
But God sees, and it matters to Him.
In his book, Faith Like Potatoes: The Story of a Farmer Who Risked Everything for God, Angus Buchan writes: “If you allow one little sin to creep into your life, and think it doesn’t matter, it will grow and grow until it affects your whole spiritual life, deflecting you from your primary aim of serving God.”
He’s right. Even little sins affect our relationship with God.
So, today I offer this prayer:
“Dear God, I’m guilty of smuggling oleo,
and a lot of other sins, too.
Please forgive me.
And every morning when I butter my toast
remind me to watch out for all those little things
that separate me from You.”
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