As an assistant librarian, I run the cash register at the book fair in our library. Elementary students come in to the fair with cold hard cash, starry eyes wanting to buy it all. When they’ve made their choices and come up to me to purchase their books, their money comes in usually one of two forms. Sometimes I am handed a wad of bills wrapped so tightly that I have to forcibly straighten them out with the heel of my hand so they’ll lay flat in the cash drawer. Other students have clearly shaken empty their piggy bank just for the occasion, which allows all manner of change to spill across the counter as they pay for their SpongeBob book. It takes all kinds.
One particular day, I had quite a line of three-foot high customers waiting to buy their items. I noticed that I was running out of cash in the drawer quickly. It seemed that everyone needed change that morning. I felt a little rise of panic with each transaction because I knew that soon, the register's drawer would be empty and I would be stranded. With an ever impatient line of small shoppers, I couldn't exactly stroll around school looking for small bills and coins. I was going to run out of money long before I ran out of customers.
I had almost made it through when one of the last shoppers came up to the register. I held my breath as I rang up the sale and watched the empty cash drawer spring open. I was hoping against hope that he wouldn’t need change. But, to pay for his three dollar book, he placed a crumpled ten dollar bill in my hand. It sounds crazy, but my eyes welled up for a moment because all the money in the register was gone, and I had no other resource to draw from. I needed seven dollars, and I had absolutely nothing to give this little boy looking at me with hand held out, waiting for his change that I had promised him.
At that very moment, another student burst forth out of the crowd. Breathless and excited, he threw a book on the counter and said, “Here, I want to buy this!” Such inspirational words from a second grader. With that, he produced a Ziploc bag – the preferred wallet of every young child – and shoved it toward me.
I saw quarters. Lots of them.
I started to hope.
The price of the book he wanted to buy? Seven dollars. The total of the quarters he gave me? Seven dollars.
The amount of change that I needed for that other student…..? Seven dollars.
Those quarters never made it into the cash drawer. Incredulous at the miracle playing out in front of me, I simply transferred the beautiful shiny circles from one student to the other. Help had arrived at the moment I needed it, from a place I wouldn't have expected it.
But I sensed a deeper truth. One that related not only to cash flow but to life in general.
If I hadn’t been in need, I couldn’t have seen the provision.
If I'm never without, I'll never recognize the Source of my supply. None of us want to be there, in the desperate need, not knowing where the next whatever-it-may-be will come from. Being in need is unattractive, uncomfortable, undesirable. Yet sometimes I must to get to the end of myself, myresources, my abundance in order to be reminded how God provides.
Then my eyes are opened, making me aware. I take time to recall inspirational Bible verses that I’ve read, assuring me that God always supplies all I need.
Then I bow my heart in humble thankfulness, being rescued once again. Then I get to see, really see, the miracle that comes in quarters.
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