“Wait just a minute, Lord. I didn’t ask for this!”
Vacations are always a great source of sermon illustrations. Maybe it is because preachers are able to wind down and just watch and enjoy life and they notice things that usually get lost in the tyranny of all the urgent things that needed to have been done an hour ago! Your life is probably the same. But whatever the reason, vacations do give a great opportunity to watch and notice things that otherwise take up their allotment of space and time and are gone without being recognized or appreciated for what they were.
The Bjerkaas family was in Philadelphia. We were visiting Kerrie’s sister and brother-in-law Stu and Mandy and their sweet daughter Aleeyah and their foster baby N’asia (who, by the way, likes her Uncle Bob the best). It was Friday afternoon, August 1, and Kerrie, Mandy, and I were trying to herd six kids from the transit parking lot to the metro train platform en route to a Phillies game. When we got to the platform, we had to pay for our parking spot – and discovered that we did not have enough change for the machine that would ensure that the car in spot 112a (or whichever spot we were in) wouldn’t get ticketed. We were five cents short and the machine didn’t take bills or credit cards. Ugh. My bright idea (given our need to get the spot paid for and have time to shepherd the kids onto the train) was to have the kids scan the ground for loose change. Surely someone was in a rush and dropped a nickel, a dime, or a quarter and left it in their rush to board?
I was right! The kids found a bunch of… pennies. As Mandy went to find a change machine in the train station or get a passenger to break a bill, I, having sent up “arrow prayers” for the last three minutes of searching, wasn’t done. “Let’s check under the traffic cones!” I said with enthusiasm. So I tilted up the cones and Timmy looked underneath. And there it was. A silver coin! Just what we needed! Until Timmy said, “What is this thing?”
Someone had indeed been in a rush and dropped a silver coin in their haste to pay the parking meter. And they had, as per my theory, left it there in order to make their train time. Unfortunately, that someone was apparently from China as the coin in my son’s hand was… Chinese.
At first I was disgruntled. By the end of the day I was not. Mandy had found someone to break a dollar and we paid for our parking spot and made the train. And Timmy, who had been having a rough day, had found a souvenir to treasure and had his day brightened up. I had been silently praying, “Lord, anything silver….” And I got that prayer answered in a way that, by the end of the day, made me think I had been praying for the wrong thing the whole time. As Kerrie can tell you, I don’t really travel well. I am continually bumping into people, getting lost in strange places, and ‘sweating all of the small stuff.’ The bigger stuff, like what kind of day my kids are having, takes a back seat to me trying not to hit my head on the low sign I don’t see or simply trying to keep up with the family and not get myself lost while sight-seeing. Tunnel vision makes things awkward sometimes! I had been praying that the parking spot would be paid for, the answer I got was ensuring that my son’s day improved.
So here is the question I continue to ponder: what do God’s answers to our prayers suggest about what we perhaps should have been praying for to begin with? Aren’t there times when God answers your prayers in ways that are difficult to appreciate at first, and it is only later that you see the beautiful wisdom of a good and gracious God in what he has provided? Let’s take some time this October to meditate on God’s answers to our prayers and ask him to increasingly learn how to pray in accordance with his good and perfect will for our lives.