Friday, September 22, 2006

Mayberry Boy

Slender, tiny, about five, he could have been an extra in Andy Griffin’s Mayberry. Star quality. Dressed in light blue overalls and T-shirt, he waited in a grocery store line to purchase a package of toy cars. Eyeglasses perched atop the bridge of his nose.

When his turn came, the female teen clerk scanned the barcode and announced the amount of $6.48. Solemn faced, he reached into his overall bib pocket. Out came a child-size zippered wallet. With great care, he took out one dollar at a time, laid each bill down and counted. “One . . . two . . . three . . . four . . . five.”

In his depleted wallet, I caught the flash of coins. He needed at least a dollar more. Silent, I mouthed to the clerk that I’d cover it, and passed a dollar over his head. She asked him for “Forty-eight cents.” He could count dollars, but coinage counting baffled him. His pennies didn’t add up to his need.

Another dollar from me passed above his head and covered the gap. Sale closed out, her cash register spit out 52 cents change. Silver coins slid down a chute into a metal receptacle. He heard the coins hastening his way, peeked into the silver bowl, scooped up the change and zipped it in his wallet.

The clerk looked at me. I whispered. “Let him have it.” By then, I’d have paid ten dollars to watch the scene play out all over again. He was that cute. He walked toward a woman in another check out line, probably a grandma, to show her the purchase he’d made all by himself.

But nothing in life is done all by self. When Paul engaged the Athenians in conversation about their objects of worship, he zeroed in on their generic altar labeled TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. These cautious worshipers had paid homage to all gods.

After Paul introduced these Greek philosophers to God, he explained, “For in him, we live and move and have our very being” (Acts 17:28). Every eye twitch, every flexed muscle, every breath, powered by God. No cell, DNA, soul, or goings-on exist without him. Darryl Tippens in his new book Pilgrim Heart says, “All of life is the proper arena for divine activity.”

When Mayberry boy showed his purchase to the adult he knew, his joy surfaced. Accomplishment. Job completed. Goal fulfilled. But at the moment of his rescue, he didn’t seem aware of the larger supply-hand that passed over his head.

The apostle Paul tells the Athenians that God made the entire human race from scratch and made the earth “hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find him.” He further says, “He doesn’t play hide-and-seek with us. He’s not remote; he’s near. We live and move in him, can’t get away from him!” (The Message)

After the insightful moment with Mayberry boy, I thought about God’s nearness. On ordinary days or those when extra energy, time, talent, money or mercy is needed to make it through until quitting time, God is near whether we consciously remember or not.

Great things can happen through this community because God is near. Be alert. Be thankful. Now, and in the coming months, watch for the hand of God, his redeeming, hospitable, creative hand, the one that even lets us gather up the spare change.

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