Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

A bargain rack believer

Racks of robes sorted by size and gender are ready for the bargain hunters.IN CARTOONS, THE internal battle is between a harp-playing angel sitting on one shoulder and a trident-wielding red devil on the other. In my life, it’s between a cherub holding a kazoo—I’m musically talentless, after all—on one side and an imp in a trench coat and hat, clutching a notebook, on the other. This devilish journalist is often asking, Really?

Such was the case one Saturday morning. With time to kill before an appointment, I decided to browse the men’s sale at a nearby mall. Maybe one of those cool-looking but unconscionably-priced vests I had seen a few weeks earlier would be discounted.

No such luck, a thorough search of the department revealed. Oh well, nothing ventured…But as I headed to the exit, I passed a couple of rows of “Clearance” items I had not seen, all jumbled together. And the kazoo holder chirped up, Why not ask Him?

The night before, a group had gathered at church for an informal evening of discussion and reflection. Some friends had prayed for me after I spoke about my ongoing difficulty in grasping some sense of what it meant to know God as Father. Jesus and the Holy Spirit I felt more familiar and comfortable with; this third aspect of the Godhead remained a bit of a remote mystery.

Somewhere along the line, the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:11 surfaced: “If you then who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

Fanciful, the notebook holder offered as I stood by the clearance rack. And besides, he went on, didn’t I think that the Almighty had more important things to do than organize the inventory at a department store?

That’s not really what it’s about, is it? interjected the one with the kazoo. It’s really that you’re afraid to be disappointed again, aren’t you?

I had to admit this was true: better stick with a mediocre hand than gamble and lose it all. But then I decided, what the heck, to ask. I whispered a prayer, saying, I’d like that vest I saw, please. Up one side of the rack, flicking through the random shirts, pants, and other pieces of apparel. Nothing, the glimmer of hope or expectancy fading. Back down the other side, the end getting closer and closer until—there it was. My vest.

I grabbed it, hustled into the changing room and—it was too big. Try as I might, I could not persuade myself it worked. Crestfallen, I paused to hang it on a random rack as I left the store, trying not to think about how getting so close seemed crueler than just drawing a blank. More fuel for my Father fog.

However, as I hung up the vest, I spotted another one nearby on the same rack. Very similar, but not exactly the same—and my size. I took it back to the changing room. To my surprise and delight, I found that I liked it even better than the one I’d first had my eye on. Even better, it rang up for just $15, a fraction the original price.

The one with the notebook wasn’t finished, however. As I walked to the car smiling to myself, he sniffed. Yeah, cute, but it wasn’t actually what you asked for, was it?

He had me there, I admitted. Close but no cigar; maybe it was all just a coincidence.

No, said the one with the kazoo, it wasn’t what you asked for; it was what you really, really wanted but just didn’t realize at the time. Your Father always knows even better than you do what you really want. And he gives good gifts to His children.

Why was this prayer of mine answered when other, apparently far weightier ones I have offered have not yet been? Fair question. Perhaps because it wasn’t really about the vest itself, but about needing to know that He is a good Father who can be trusted even when those other requests seem to be unanswered.

Photo credit: pennstatenews via Foter.com/CC BY-NC

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