Monday, May 23, 2016

Make Your Selection Please

The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cry and saves them.
Psalm 145:18-19

When I'm trying to sort through a problem, I do two things:  I pray, and I eat candy.  One feeds my soul and the other, my sweet-tooth. Both come from heaven.
On one particularly busy day, I was bothered by a particularly pesky problem. So as I buzzed through my to-do list, I prayed—at the stoplight, while waiting for the dry cleaning, while going through the car wash.  I didn't pray in generalities, but prayed very specifically because I wanted God to get it right.  Hopefully, He would agree with my solution, give His blessings, and everything would be grand.
As talking to heaven made me want to taste a bit of it, I eventually took a chocolate break.
The coins clattered down the vending machine's innards. Chocolate delicacies called to me like Sirens wooing Odysseus. Did I want rich and gooey (Snickers), rich and creamy (Reese's Peanut Butter Cups) or rich and crunchy (Butterfinger)?  If only I had enough calorie reserves to have them all.
And the winner was:  rich and gooey.  I pulled the knob under the Snickers bar. 
Nothing happened.
I yanked the knob again.  Harder.  Maybe it didn't understand the laws of elementary vending?
The Snickers sat there, glaring at me.  Gloating.
After a quick glimpse around the vending area for witnesses, I gave the machine a smack with my fist.  The Snickers held firm.  But its neighbor, a low-fat granola bar, plunged into the tray.
"No!"
I retrieved the granola bar and stared at it.  How dare it think it could take the place of decadent chocolate. 
I dug out more money.  I fed the machine a second time and carefully pulled the Snickers knob.
Nothing.
I grabbed the sides of the vending machine and leaned against it.  "You're not listening!"
I pulled the knob again, pounding the glass above the Snickers at the same time, hoping to give it a push.
A granola bar plunged off the edge to its death.
"No! No!"
I put a hand to my forehead, took a deep breath, and tried to calm myself.  My desire for the Snickers bar was nearing the obsession level.  I didn't want it anymore, I needed it.
I rummaged around the bottom of my purse hoping for a scattering of stray coins. If only the machine took pennies.
Sixty-five. Seventy.  Just one more nickel.  I looked in the compartment that held my sunglasses. A crumpled receipt, a peppermint, a lint sculpture . . . and a nickel!
I stroked the front of the machine, calming it.  "I'm going to try this one more time," I said.  "For your own good, and my sanity, please cooperate."
I inserted the coins with delicate precision, giving the machine ample time to log in each new addition.  I had the Snickers knob in my hand when I hesitated.  I've pulled the Snickers knob twice and gotten a granola bar twice.  Therefore, it's only logical . . .
I moved my hand to the granola bar's knob.  I bothered God with a chocolate prayer and pulled.
A low-fat granola bar fell into the tray.
I stifled a scream as I retrieved the final two granola bars.  With cool deliberation I stuck them in my purse, turned my back on the vending machine, and strode to the parking lot.  With amazing self-control, I held in my anger until I was alone in my car.
I hit the steering wheel with the palm of my hand.  "Stupid machine!" I said.  "I gave it the right amount of change, I made the selection, I pulled the knob.  I did everything right yet it didn't listen to me!  It kept giving me what I didn't want."
Hunger overrode anger.  I yanked a granola bar from my purse and ripped off the wrapper.  I tore a bite off the top and chewed vigorously as if extracting my revenge. 
My chewing slowed. Not bad.  Not bad at all.  I took another bite and read the back of the wrapper.  It was certainly more nutritious than a candy bar.  Less fat, even a few vitamins.
"Well, what do you know?" I said aloud.  I’d paid the machine, pounded the machine, stroked the machine, tried to outwit the machine.  I’d asked over and over for one particular thing only to have it give me something that was better than what I asked for.
Unannounced, my pesky problem popped into my thoughts. I called up the prayer I'd been reciting and reeled it off.  But mid-sentence I stopped and stared at the granola bar.
Had I been treating God like a vending machine: prayer in, answer out? Had I been paying Him with prayers, pounding Him with my persistence, stroking Him with easy platitudes, trying to outwit Him by asking over and over for His blessings on my will?  In answer was He offering me something that would be better for me than what I asked for?
I put the granola bar aside and bowed my head, apologizing to the Almighty for my selfish nagging.  I thanked Him for the lesson He’d just taught me, and finally surrendered my problem to His capable hands.
Pulling out into traffic, I knew my problem would be solved.  Wisely, fairly, and mercifully.  As far as the other problem I had in liking Snickers more than low-fat anything?  God would have to work on that larger issue another time. 
I wish Him well.