His card slid into the ATM easily. He had heard the instructions earlier outside a grocery store and had followed orders just as he always did. Nicholas never questioned the instructions when he heard them. He simply took the special ATM card that he’d been given and inserted it into whichever ATM he was directed to. Tonight he had been instructed to cross the street in front of the grocery store and walk four blocks down to this little bank Card inserted, he pushed the buttons that corresponded to the personal identification number tied to his special card.
Visibility on the road was terrible. It had been raining since she’d left the house for the last time tonight. Even so, if the rain weren’t pelting down, her tears would have kept her from clearly seeing the road in front of her. Twice she had pulled over so that she could try to get the tears out and continue driving. Driving was, after all, the most important thing on her agenda at the moment. She feared that if she stopped driving for too long, she would rethink her decision, turn around, and go back. “But, back to what?” She asked herself several times as she continued down the road, passing through one small town after another with only long stretches of dark, two-lane highway between each.
The drive reminded her in so many ways of the life that she had been living until now; long stretches of dark, lonely, nothingness seemingly leading to somewhere wonderful, only to find nothing along the way. Never finding anything that she had thought she would find when she had first started her journey twelve years ago. Well, at least she was seeing her broken marriage as a journey. Journeys were positive things because no matter how hard or long they were, they always took you where you had needed to be all along. And that’s where she was headed tonight; to the place where she had belonged for a long time. She just wasn’t sure how or when she was going to get there.
Nicholas continued following the directions on the ATM’s screen. Yes, he wanted to make a withdraw. He pushed the button for “savings” and then entered the amount he wanted. Usually these machines had a maximum daily amount that could be withdrawn, but not this time. His card allowed him to take as much or as little as was necessary according to the instructions he had heard. Tonight, the amount he withdrew was larger than any amount he had been instructed to withdraw since he’d been given this assignment. He pushed the button agreeing to the ATM’s withdraw fee. He wasn’t worried about fees. All of the necessary fees had already been paid a long time ago and no more fees would be required, ever.
The screen instructed him to wait while it processed his request and then began making the familiar sound of bills being sent from inside the machine out into the money slot. Nicholas watched as the cash continued in a nonstop torrent of green paper and he smiled. This was his second favorite part of the assignment. When the pile of money was crowding the slot, he took it out and began putting it in one of the nearby deposit envelopes. More bills continued cascading down from inside the machine. Finally, the amount he had requested had been sent through and he put the rest of the bills in the envelope. He laid the thick envelope on the ledge in front of the screen and wrote one word on it. Before sealing the envelope, he placed inside it a piece of paper containing more writing. He put the envelope in the slot where the money had just been coming from seconds ago and touched the slot with the index finger on his right hand. Then, he disappeared.
Another long stretch of empty highway reminded her just how empty she felt right now. Her marriage was definitely over, she was leaving behind almost everything she had known for years, and she had no idea what she was going to do tomorrow or the next day. But looking in the back seat of her car she knew that she had no choice but to leave and start over. Lying down in the back seat, her six-year-old son, Cameron slept peacefully and had no idea that his little life was about to change forever. The only thing that kept her going was knowing that she was changing Cameron’s life for the better and knowing that she and Cameron would no longer have to live with the abuse that Cameron’s father had led her to believe was love. She had had her own beliefs before she married Cameron’s father and she knew that it was time to start making those beliefs a part of her life again. After all, as a child her parents had raised her in a Christian home and had taken her to church every Sunday until she had left home for college.
And until she had gone to college she had acted like the Christian girl that her parents had been so proud of and she had believed in a God who could do miracles. But, college had introduced her to the wrong friends and Cameron’s father and slowly over those four years, she had drifted far from the path that she had followed for her entire childhood. As she drove, she realized that more than any other, shame was the emotion that flowed up through her stomach and almost choked her. How had she gotten to this point in her life? How had she become this person that she never intended to be? She was the wife of an abusive, alcoholic, man who had drained their savings gambling in Las Vegas and entertaining his women “friends”. Thoughts again turned to tears and she pulled over to the side of the road once more, but this time instead of just sobbing quietly, she bowed her head and began praying. It had been a long time since she had prayed, but somehow she knew that God was listening and had been waiting to hear from her. She just wished that He would give her a sign to reassure her that she was making the right decision and that everything would be better from now on.
She wasn’t sure how long she had prayed. When she was finished telling God how sorry she was and asking for his guidance from here on to forever, she started driving again. The tank was almost empty and she needed to get some gas or she wouldn’t make it to where she was going. She knew that there was $50 left in the joint bank account she shared with her husband and though that was the last of the money she had, she decided to find an ATM in the next town she came to and withdraw it so she could buy gas and get something for her and Cameron to eat. The next town came quickly and she found a bank just four blocks down from a 24 hour grocery store. She pulled her car up to the drive-through ATM and was about to insert her card when she noticed that a deposit envelope was blocking the money slot. She reached out and removed the envelope from the slot so that she could receive her last $50 from the machine. As she removed the envelope, she realized just how fat it was. And as she examined it further she stared in speechless amazement at what was written on the front. “Karen”. That was her name. She opened the sealed envelope and almost lost her breath when she saw its contents. There must have been $10,000 or more in that envelope. She had goose bumps as she removed a piece of paper from amidst the hundred dollar bills.
On the paper, a scripture was written and she read it through her tears: “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of his grace expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus - Ephesians 2:6-7” Again, Karen prayed. This time she prayed a prayer of thankfulness; thankful for God’s mercy and kindness. She didn’t know in what miraculous way the money had gotten there, but she knew that it had been meant for her. And, in the nick of time, God had saved her from herself and from a life of desperation and despair.
From somewhere far away, Nicholas watched as another of God’s lost children found her way back home. And as he watched Karen praying, there was no doubt in his mind that this was ultimately his favorite part of the assignment he had been given.