Let me share a simple tale of God working in my life.
First, the short and sweet version, for those who really don’t like to read:
● I didn’t have enough quarters to wash this week’s dirty clothes.
● Recounting my coins, I dropped one.
● When I knelt to retrieve it, I found two more quarters – enough to do my laundry.
Now some of you may wonder how this insignificant event displays God’s love and involvement in my life. I would suggest that there are no small details to the One who counts every hair on not just my head, but every other head in existence… but to truly explain this, I ask you to read on.
This story – which on its face is admittedly insignificant, if not silly -- draws from how I wash my clothes, or to be more precise, how I pay for washing my clothes at my apartment’s coin-operated laundromat.
Let’s set the stage: When I started down my self-publishing road almost six years ago, I slashed my budget to the bare bone, for I knew my income would take a huge cut. That proved true, and while my communications consulting business far outperformed expectations, I continue to count every penny, living day by day, week by week, trusting God for my needs.
When I moved to this apartment two-some years ago, I discovered my weekly pile of dirty clothes averaged $3 to run through those mercenary washing and drying machines. Normally I covered this expense by obtained rolls of quarters (note for overseas readers: a quarter is a U.S. coin valued at 25 cents, or one-fourth of a dollar; $10 worth come in a roll of quarters available at banks and some retailers). But as COVID started creating coin shortages, I decided to make a game of this challenge, seeking to garner each week’s wash bill from spare change collected from everyday purchases.
Why a game, you ask? Because in every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun, and snap! The job’s a game!
Yes, I learned that from Mary Poppins decades ago. It’s one of the wisest things to come out of a Disney song or movie, and it’s a great philosophy for life…. which takes us back to my story.
I woke up that morning with a full laundry basket but only seven quarters in my billfold. Seven dimes and a nickel clinked among them, which I could exchange for three more quarters, but that still left me two short of my cleansing bill.
Now, this did not seem a major problem. With just a bit of contemplation, I figured I could obtain these missing quarters in the change I’d receive buying a Coke or some other thirst-quenching drink while I took my afternoon walk.
Please understand, normally I follow my budget and don’t buy anything on these exercise strolls. I carry a half-frozen water bottle instead. But since I needed laundry coins, I figured I could stretch my daily walk a little longer than usual, which on this hot day would justify buying a drink along the way that would meet my craving and bring me two or more quarters in change. I had a pair of dollar bills in hand, so it seemed doable.
That reveal may spur the sensible among you to ask another simple question: Why not just get change for one of those dollars and be done with it? I admit, that would have solved my laundry problem and saved me the price of a drink. But that would also be too easy. It wouldn’t fit the game. And sometimes I like to reward myself during those 8- to 10-mile walks I call exercise.
OK, that’s a selfish answer – so much so that it blocked me of even thinking about getting change until I wrote this blog. Sometimes I break down and indulge myself. But not often.
On with the tale.
I got ready for my walk, putting off pocketing the dimes to the end… which is when I dropped one. It hit my foot and rolled into the shadows under my bathroom cabinet. In a flash, all sorts of consternation ran through my head. Just think: in that No Man’s Land beneath my sink lurked near-endless stockpiles of accumulated dust and hairballs, and probably spiders and snakes, as Jim Stafford used to sing. Well, maybe not snakes, but spiders. Definitely spiders, and who knows what else, for no one had ever cleaned down there since I moved in, which I know because no one’s lived with me for 20-some years, or even visited me for a decade or longer, which makes for quite a bit of naturally hoarded debris and who knows what else. Potentially lots more. Perhaps Gollum himself hopped up and down in joy over this sparkling new dime that just rolled to a stop beside his lost cavern pool under that cabinet.
And I had to take it away from him.
So down on my knees I went. I had to see that dime, after all – I dared not just grope into the darkness and possibly lose my hand to a hungry cockroach that hadn’t made it to Cincinnati. Yet even when my line of sight pierced those stygian depths, I could not spy my dime. I looked again, and again, until I glimpsed something that might normally shine if only it claimed some form of illumination. Encouraged, I said a prayer for God’s protection, stretched for that mystery… and retrieved a quarter!
That truly surprised me, for I could not remember having dropped one of those in that bathroom my entire life – which sounds like a big deal until you remember I’d only lived there two years, but still…
Anyway, there I was, one quarter up from a minute before, but still missing that vital dime. So, I looked again, and again, back and forth, visually sifting those shrouded depths, and after a moment of disappointment I perceived still another potentially reflective something. Thus I whispered a prayer for grace, girded my loins (a great Old Testament phrase you can apply far more often than you do, I’d bet), and oh so gently reached into the unknown… to find another quarter!
Wow! Who would have believed it? More manna from the dustbins!
Imagine the joy that flowed through my noggin as I realized I had just won this week’s laundry game. Then picture my sadness returning as I recalled the dime yet lost out there, somewhere… that vital coin that left my laundry high, dry, and dirty.
So once more I risked ultimate danger and gazed into the recesses of my dark domain, seeking that lonesome dime… and seeing nothing, I got to pondering, where would I be right now if I was a coin abandoned in this wasteland? Thinking of that poor, defenseless 10-cent piece, no doubt shivering in fright and despair, separated from its parents and siblings… where would such a despondent guy go? Well, if it were me, naturally I’d put a hand on the wall and follow that barrier until it led me back to the known world… a logic that, in my mind, meant a corner. So, I looked to one corner, then the other, and back once more, until I saw something suspiciously close to gleaming, something hinting of a plated copper and nickel surface wanting to be found. Something incredibly close to being just possibly, if not probably, similar to what I would have liked to have seen if I’d had a chance. Intrigued, I reached in… and found a dime! And since I didn’t want to look any more, I decided it was indeed my missing coin and ended these search and rescue operations right then.
Now, some of you may still question how this represents an act of God.
Consider first how God works not just in dramatic, unexplainable miracles, but in the most ordinary and routine elements of everyday life. Isaiah 45:7 quotes God Himself on this: “I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the LORD, do all these things.” Ecclesiastes 2:24 simplifies this: “Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw, was from the hand of God.”
Indeed, every facet of our world, down to its smallest particles and energies, bears witness of God and His acts for us. Paul warned of this in Romans 1:20 – “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — His eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”
In many ways these “invisible qualities” act as signposts to spur and aid our search for Him, as He meant them to. “I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me,” God says in Proverbs 8:17. Psalm 14:2 offers more: “The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.”
Matthew 6:31-34 ties all these thoughts together with Christ’s dramatic words from the Sermon on the Mount: “Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Growing close to God helps us work through daily trials, as 2 Peter 1:2-4 relates: “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”
Many of our problems draw from lust. Enamored by worldly pleasures, riches, power, we often view everyday life as routine, even boring. We pay little attention to these casual matters unless something messes up our plans. Especially in our youth, we take each breath and heartbeat for granted. We’re spoiled that way, even in this pandemic age, as we were in the digital age, the nuclear age, the industrial age.
James explained this in his first New Testament letter, chapter 1, verses 14-15. “Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed,” he wrote. “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”
Paul offers strong advice on this in 2 Timothy 2:22 – “Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”
Viewed through a worldly lens, my laundry lessons may seem simple and foolish. Indeed, I wrote them with my usual sense of humor, which some dismiss as folly. But God works through even that, as 1 Corinthians 1:27 reminds us: “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty.”
In a nutshell, God works through everything – good or bad, weak or strong, wise or foolish. As Romans 8:28 reminds us: “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” And it’s through His purpose, and His presence, that we may endure them all. As Paul testified in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
All things… which includes the laundry.