Yesterday afternoon, on my way to meet Dwayne for a ministry meeting, I was in a hurry to get out the door. Talking on the cell phone with one hand, starting the car with the other, and talking with Melissa while rolling down the window, I was my usual flurry of multi-tasking silliness. Before I pulled out of the driveway, Melissa handed me a wad of checks (four of the five checks already endorsed) and asked me if I would deposit them on the way home. I promised I would, backed out of the driveway, and headed for my meeting with Dwayne at Fred Meyer Starbucks.
Fast forward two hours. I am idling in the parking lot of First Tech Credit Union, getting ready to deposit those checks using the drive-up ATM. Where did I put them? Needless to say, my memory isn't good to begin with (mind you, it's too full of movie lines and obscure theologems), and it is even worse when trying to remember one thing amid five others I was doing at the same time. I shut off the car, dug around in the console. Emptied my pockets, no checks. Check on the dash. Inside the console box. Glove compartment. Mild fear sets in, where did I put those checks?
Stopping for a moment, I focus on what I was doing when Melissa handed them to me. Talking with one hand, driving with the other. The vague impression comes to me that I had folded them and put them in my lap, waiting for a more opportune moment to put them safely in my pocket. Which I must have done before going into Fred Meyer, didn't I? Didn't I?
Tear the car apart once more. If they were in my lap, maybe they fell between the seats. Check all the usual places again, this time more carefully. No, they are not hiding between the stack of stale graham crackers mashed up in the console. No, they are not folded between the static-cling window shades shoved against the emergency brake. I stand up again, step away from the car. Mild fear has now given way to real fear. More than $500 in checks, all but one endorsed. I can't find them. Melissa is going to kill me. Why can't I be more careful?
Stay calm. Look one more time. Nothing.There is a time when you resort to prayer out of instinct. This is the foxhole instinct, the "GOD! HELP!" I realized I wasn't bleeding and that I had gotten myself into this mess all by myself, thankyouverymuch. I realized it was only money and that it was probably right in front of my face, but I prayed anyway. "God, I have to find that money," I said silently and sheepishly. As I dig around, a slow realization begins to dawn. I better go back and check Fred Meyer.
As I'm driving, I am already giving up hope. God cares for me, I know. He answers prayer, I know, but I was being stupid and careless. Part of my mind begins to sift through images of God--stern, distant, helpful-only-with-spiritual-stuff. Another part of my mind starts calculating how to explain this to Melissa. Still another, what I can do to minimize the loss and survive the rest of the month without the money.
I pull into the Fred Meyer parking lot, find a parking spot down from where I was earlier. I step out of the car into the afternoon sun, at first appreciative for the breezy day, then remembering that, God forbid, if I had dropped the checks in the parking lot, they were as good as gone. I glanced around the parking lot to see pieces of trash blowing briskly between cars. I swallowed and walked quickly back to where I thought I had parked earlier. As I approached, I kept looking back and forth between the spaces and the door, trying to remember which one.
Then I stopped. In one empty spot (which would normally have been covered by a parked car) was a little piece of paper. I shot forward and picked it up.
A thrill of relief, fear, and guilt ran through me as I looked at Melissa's familiar signature right there on the checks. If someone would have seen them... But wait, there were only three. Plummeting into panic again, I frantically look around. Another scrap of paper across the way. Another check! And there, just a little further on, was the last.
I stood there, blinking in the bright sun and cool breeze, looking incredulously at the answered prayers I held in my hand. All of them. So simple. A thankfulness toward a whimsical God wells up within me like the evening tide, swelling and covering everything. I shake my head in disbelief as I walk back toward my car, legs shaking.
How careless I am. How easily I resort to begging God with silly prayers to get me out of messes of my own creation. And then how quickly I am to doubt the faithfulness of a God who gave what He did for undeserving people like me. And especially when we don't deserve it, right in the middle of an ordinary life, here comes the whisper of Grace.