Holy Satisfaction ... Holy Dissatisfaction
The country music queen of heartache and melancholy was singing her mournful song on the radio. "I don't need this," he thought as he searched for another station. Finding nothing but acid rock or dentist office music, he flipped it off and put both hands on the wheel. He couldn't get last night off his mind.
He and Becky really had it out. The kids were smart enough to make themselves scarce. The exodus started when he referred to the checkbook not being brought up to date. Becky then let him have it with both barrels. He must have said the magic words that broke open the dam.
At first he didn't realize what he'd done. His was not a heavy comment, just a statement of fact. Her anger seemed out of proportion with the cause. Of course, once her sparks flew, he responded likewise. That's when the kids put in a hasty retreat.
"Dad, I've got homework to do," may I be excused?"
"Yeah, so do I."
"OK, sure," he replied without thinking. Only later did he remember there was no school this week, and the youngest was only in kindergarten. They were no dummies. He should have done the same thing, or she should have.
It was one of those arguments that don't go anywhere. As usual it had something to do with money. The situation at work did not look too good. He had no idea whether the company would still be in existence at the end of the month. Would the next paycheck be his last? They were crimping as it was. Becky was trying to find every way possible to cut corners. How many more corners could be cut? He hated the prospect of her having to go back to work. The thought of her working and him at home was not an appealing one.
Last night, the thought worked its way into a nightmare. He awoke in a cold sweat, not remembering the dream, but full of fear. It didn't help that he was sleeping on the couch. Once he found the remote, he turned on the TV to get the nightmare out of his mind. On one channel was an "expert" on investment, telling about how to make big bucks. Another channel brought one of those prosperity preachers.
"Just name what you want and claim it in the name of the Lord." He wondered how many people were taken in by either one of these television gurus. Probably people like him, whose future seemed pretty grim. Next thing he knew the "Today" show was on. There was Willard Scott showing off a picture of some 100 year old lady.
Another day. After a quick shower and breakfast - silent, of course, after last night - he jumped in the car for work and here he was. All these things swam through his head, as he drove to town on that overcast, dreary day. On the right he noticed a 40 mph speed limit sign. A glance into his rear view mirror made his heart sink. There was a state trooper with his little red light flashing. As he let up on the accelerator, he looked down at the speedometer. The needle was only then beginning to inch down to 60 mph. "O boy," he said aloud, or perhaps it was something worse.
Driver's license ... Car registration. The trooper looked them over. "Mr. Miller, you were clocked at 65 mph." What do you say when you've been caught red-handed? Nothing. He sat there while the trooper went back to his own car to fill out the ticket. He felt like a child again, sitting in the principal's office. Shame ... guilt ... heart racing ... Everything in the car felt unreal ...
This was it. The thing to top it off. All he needed was a ticket, another bill to pay. Could you lose your license for going 25 mph over the limit? What was Becky going to say? Another argument tonight? There will probably be a memo in his paycheck today, giving notice of a layoff. Murphy's law: Everything that can go wrong, will. And Murphy was an optimist. He laid his head down in his hands, and prayed for the ability to handle this day.
"Mr. Miller," the trooper spoke up, "please look this over. You were going 65 mph in a 55 mph zone. This is the location, and this is my name and badge number. You have ten days to pay your fine or file an appeal. This is the name and address of the district magistrate. Sign here if you don't have any questions." He signed.
The trooper then handed him his ticket and said, "please slow it down, sir." Whew! ... The car inched slowly back onto the highway. "Where in our budget am I going to get the money for this fine?," he thought as he turned the radio back on. Some minister was having a devotional, to which he didn't really listen. Some spoken words of scripture, though, caught his attention:
"Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these."(Matthew 6:28-29) As he was drawn into those words from Jesus, he started listening. "The Christian life is both satisfying and dissatisfying," the minister said. "It is satisfying because we have a God who provides for our needs. We are secure even when all circumstances point otherwise. Yet it is dissatisfying because we have a God who leaves us yearning for more. Once we experience the way God provides for our needs, our list of wants seems terribly unsatisfactory."
Somehow those words touched him deeply on that road. What Jesus had to say about living simply had always seemed to him just another way of saving money. For the first time he saw them in a different light.
He realized that he rarely felt satisfied, even when everything was going just right. His job, his family - never satisfied. Not really unhappy, but... Just then he thought about the trooper, and it dawned on him that even in this world there is a touch of grace. The speed limit had been 40 and not 55, as his ticket read. "Please slow it down, sir," the trooper had said.
In those words he heard the voice of God. It startled him so much that he nearly missed the turnoff. He parked the car and walked in the plant. As he passed the front office, someone yelled out to him: "Hey Bill, great way to start a weekend. How nice of that Trooper to pay you a little visit."
"Yep," said Bill as he kept walking, "it was. Yes, it was ..." Strangely enough, he felt satisfied. His prayer was answered.
©1996Peter L. Haynes