Because of a bank error, I ended up with two separate credit card accounts with the same bank. If I’m not careful, I would make the payment to the wrong account and incur finance charges and fees. One day, I found out that I had done that again and missed the payment on one of the cards.
I left work early to go to the bank to deal with it. At the counter, the teller told me that it’s something I have to resolve over the phone with the credit card company, but I can make the minimum payment there. I left the window to go to the ATM to get some cash. After leaving the counter, I realized that I could have taken the money from the account while at the counter, but there was already someone else at that window so it was too late. I saw the line of people waiting for the tellers and I knew I just wasted another five or ten minutes by leaving the line. I was very upset at myself, again.
I went to the ATM to get $80 so I can pay the $79 minimum payment. The ATM has a really thick glass and it was hard to figure out which button is which. I touched the one I thought was for $80 and the ATM dispensed $100. I thought I was having a really bad day. I couldn’t even get the right amount of cash from an ATM! Anyhow, I went back, got in line, and paid the minimum payment. I was quite unhappy with my string of errors that caused an unnecessary trip to the bank and delays.
As I walked out of the bank, I saw an old African-American man right between me and my car. I knew what he wanted, but it was almost impossible to avoid him given where I parked. As I walked towards my car, he asked for money. Then I did something I’ve never done before: I asked him why he needs money! Right after I did that, I realized how stupid that was, and why I just opened myself up for a longer engagement than I want. It would have been more convenient if I just gave him a dollar and move on.
But his answer shocked me: “Every night if I pay someone $25, I can sleep in his garage.” That was too complicated to be a lie, I thought to myself. Saying he is hungry and needs money for food would have been more convincing. I mean, who can say “no” to feeding someone? His statement simply didn’t sound like a lie to me. Even if it is, I have no way of disproving it.
This was the time to pull out the wallet and give the money, but I was on the streak of doing unusual things so I asked him, “How much do you have now?” He said, “Seven dollars.” What was I doing? Just give a dollar or two and leave! I knew I was getting myself into a deeper hole. I just can’t remember why I kept the conversation going.
So the guy needs $18. I have $20 in my wallet because of the error at the ATM. It just seemed too coincidental that I’d have the money he needs at that time, not just the minimal amount of cash I tend to carry. But I’m a cheapskate – just ask my family. $5 may be the max I’d give. $20 is unthinkable. But everything just seemed too timely and coincidental. It even felt providential. It was almost hard not to help the guy out. This was one of those “Christmas shoes” moments…
So I pull out the $20 and gave it to him, not quite willingly. He thanked me and said, “God bless you.” I just nodded my head and got into my car. I didn’t feel joy. I was thinking of my $20.
As I drove down the familiar road going home, I was really upset with myself. I made so many mistakes that day (and many days before) that I lost valuable work time and $20! I was talking to myself in not-so-nice words, venting frustration at myself. Then I heard a whisper in my head: “Your mistakes are what I used to bless him.” I was shocked. At that moment, everything suddenly made sense. I came to see how all these mistakes all come together and led me to that encounter and my unlikely actions. All those were planned by God just to lead me to that encounter and help that guy (whom I’ve never seen since)?
I have to believe that whisper came from God because it was too deep and too unlike me for my brain to come up with it.
That experience dramatically changed my mentality afterwards. I began to think that perhaps some higher divine purposes are behind some of the unpleasant things I experienced, such as forgetting a nice jacket at a hotel or leaving my son’s Lightning McQueen bike at the park. Perhaps God uses those incidences to do something good. If that’s the case, then we shouldn’t be so upset about them. We are just vessels that God uses for His wondrous works, even if often we don’t know exactly what our roles may be.