When I was probably eight or nine, I heard a story in Sunday School about a man who had yearned and yearned for a basic car, maybe a Ford or something. When he finally got it, he praised God fervently. God’s response was something like, “I’m glad you like it. But I was going to give you a Cadillac if you had waited a little longer” (substitute whatever type of car makes that analogy work best for you there). This story stuck with me over the years as a little message in the back of my thoughts, even though I often did not heed it and settled for plenty Fords rather than holding out for Cadillacs.
So a while ago I decided to really endeavor to settle for nothing less than what felt like a gift from God. I put these efforts to test in a specific instance. For years, I had purchased a string of cheap watches that would fall apart or rub off on my skin (fake metal) every six months. I had not replaced the latest one and was just using my phone to tell time. When I go into prisons to speak, however, I cannot bring my phone. I learned the hard way that it is very important to have a watch in these situations. At my very first lecture, there was no clock in the gym where I spoke. In the prison where I had previously taught, the officers would always come and let me know when it was time to end class, so I figured that would happen at most prisons. Well, no one told us to end, and the women in this prison loved to sing, so we were enjoying singing together and had gone way over the allotted time. When we finally left, the officer outside the door told me in a harsh tone that I had cut into his lunch hour. Whoops! I had no idea. Anyway, it was an uncomfortable situation, and I resolved to get a watch.
Before I was leaving on a trip to speak at a few facilities, my parents told me they would like to give me a new watch of my choosing as a gift. They were also about to go away, so they allotted a sum of money toward the purchase and told me to choose something I liked that would be long lasting rather than another cheap watch for $14.99. I was leaving in a couple days and was very busy, but I had a moment to stop into a couple local stores to see what I might find. I had a few criteria in mind. I wanted it to be easy to put on and take off and have actual numbers on the face so I could be very clear as to what time it was, and I wanted it to be versatile enough that it could go with almost anything I might wear. There were a few options at these stores that seemed like they could do the trick, but frankly each of them had something that was not quite ideal about it. Remembering my endeavor to not settle, I could not bring myself to buy any of these watches.
It got to be the day before my departure, and I still had not found anything that felt right. I said to myself, “I am going to trust God to provide just the right thing just when I need it.” This was frankly kind of a new thing for me. It felt like “radical reliance”, a phrase I got from a sentence I had read in Mary Baker Eddy’s book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “Only through radical reliance on Truth can scientific healing power be realized” (p. 167). I know this may seem like a pretty small instance, but I’ve learned that trusting God has to start with the little things in everyday life. This felt like an important choice.
So I left for the airport still with no watch in hand. I was feeling very eager to see how this would all work out since I really did not want to enter that prison without a watch and have a repeat performance of the previous experience of being berated by the officer. At the airport, I spotted a convenience store that sold snacks, books, neck pillows, and yes, even watches. This must be it! When I went over to look at them, I noticed they were arranged by color. A whole slew of them in various fun shades, all just…..$14.99! “Maybe I can get two or three and use them for different outfits!” I thought. Upon closer inspection, though, I saw that very few of them even had the right time or were running at all. When I picked up one I had been admiring, a little sparkly piece fell off. They were far from Cadillacs, not even in the Ford category. More like a Yugo or something.
You can probably see where I’m going here, right? How many times do we see something that looks like it should be appealing, at a time when we feel it is something we urgently need, and try to somehow make it work for us even when it is obvious that it is not a good fit or will not be a long lasting solution. It simply does not feel like a gift from God. This can happen with jobs, housing, relationships, major purchases, all kinds of things.
So off I went to catch the flight, still with a naked wrist, envisioning another minor altercation with a prison guard in my future. Then I remembered what I had told myself: “I am going to trust God to provide just the right thing just when I need it.” One thing I’ve noticed is that sometimes the thing we need doesn’t show up until the moment it is required. Rather than seeing this occurrence as a test of our faith, I like to think of it as a vehicle for us to strengthen our trust in something bigger than ourselves.
I had a layover in Philadelphia. As I was walking toward the gate for the next flight, still very curious to know how God would provide, I came upon a store called “Time to Fly”. Yup, you know the rest. There I saw a watch that fit all the criteria I had in mind, along with being on sale for four dollars under the amount my parents had allotted. It also happened to be solar-powered, which I thought was pretty cool. And for buying it I received a special voucher to get a free little portable speaker at another store in the airport. I’ve used that speaker quite a bit while traveling. And thanks to the watch, I’ve never gotten in trouble with a correctional officer for intruding on his or her lunch break again.
This may be the sort of thing that happens to you every day, but for me it was an important milestone. We don’t have to settle. We might have to wait until it feels like it’s almost impossible for us to have what we need, but that’s when we get to learn how strong we are and how God loves to surprise us with unexpected gifts that are always….right on time. Right now it is time for us not to just crawl or walk along or get by… It’s “Time to Fly”!