Despite the fact that the sight of numbers makes my brain go numb, at twenty-years-old I had a brief stint as a bank teller. I was, admittedly, horrible at this job – habitually out of balance, a known tripper of silent burglar alarms, and often guilty of handing out more cash than requested due to crisp new bills and their tendency to stick together. And although I would sweat through my day, always antsy and second guessing myself, there were a few aspects about the position that didn’t make me nauseous: slow and early mornings at the drive-through window, rarely needing to work past 3:00 pm, and occasionally having reason to use the change counter.
One afternoon, a five-year-old boy walked into our bank with his dad. Refusing help, he staggered toward me carrying an enormous glass jar filled to the brim with coins. I could tell this was a special event, a momentous event that had taken months to come to fruition. With all of his dwindling strength the little boy raised the jar over his head and placed it in my hands.
“Wow,” I asked appropriately, “did you save all this by yourself?”
“Well, mostly” he admitted.
“It’s going towards his savings account,” added the father.
“Let’s see what you’ve got,” I said … “any guesses?” While some outrageous suggestions were being thrown at me (“twenty-two thousand, hundred, million!”) I opened the jar and turned on the change counter. The rumbling, sucking noise, much like that of a vacuum cleaner, muted my young customer mid-prediction. Tilting the jar, I turned to face him with a smile as the first quarters and nickels rolled out of his sight and into the hungry mouth of this coin-chomping monster. Like a slow motion movie sequence, his eyes grew wide, his lips parted in horror, his arms reached out helplessly, and then “No-o-o-o-o!” came the cry of dismay. By this time the jar was nearly empty and my smile had been flattened by his obvious grief and the sudden realization that this process had not been carefully explained to him.
“Here you are,” I said meekly, after every last penny had been swallowed up, after scribbling down the actual and rather impressive figure on a deposit slip, after offering back a now vacant jar and the lousy piece of paper.
“That’s great buddy!” attempted his father, also realizing (a bit too late in my opinion) that to his son, a written dollar amount would mean absolutely nothing.
The boy was livid and inconsolable. I was the enemy, a thief, a dirty rotten cheater. No matter how hard I tried to explain that all of that cumbersome and virtually useless change had been replaced with something of actual value, his distain for me only intensified. What he loved, much more than the padding of his savings account, were the coins themselves – how they clinked together, how cool and solid they felt when gripped in his sweaty fist, how they were tangible and visible – unmistakably present. What he desired was the freedom to retain his self-perceived treasure without his parents, or me the evil bank teller, trying to convince him that by letting go he’d become a wealthier man. What he couldn’t wrap his mind around was the enigma of nothing being something, of less being more in the end.
“For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it,” said Jesus in the eighth chapter of Mark. This verse has made me uncomfortable since the first time I heard it, since I first grasped the gravity of its message. I, too, prefer my treasures to be visible, tangible, unmistakably present. With all my dwindling strength I protect them – my things, my health, my family. I’ve lost years of sleep, wasted millions of moments, imagined countless horrific scenarios due to my anxiousness about possibilities outside of my control. I’ve retained just a sliver of a barrier between God and myself, a buffer between me and a reckless abandon to follow Christ at any cost, to lose the life I know and love in order to ultimately save it.
But see, here’s the thing, I’m miserable. Withholding even a fraction of my heart from Christ, praying “Thy Will Be Done” while simultaneously begging that nothing too difficult be asked of me, cherishing the blessings themselves over union with the Originator of every sweet thing I wake up to, is the opposite of peace and freedom. Fear and faith are like oil and water, like square pegs and round holes, like wet kindling trying to catch a flame. From this side of eternity I can’t possibly understand the enigma of how losing is really finding, I can’t imagine the grace that infuses those more willing to empty their jars until I hand mine over and accept that my vision is limited, my desires corruptible, and that my best bet for obtaining anything of actual value is trusting, truly trusting, in my Savior.
Change, on a daily basis, can feel heavy in our pockets, unwieldy in our wallets, inconvenient when counted out and used to purchase goods. But change in the long-term, when stored for future spending, can make us richer. Change is inevitable; change is an impetus for either giving up or going forth. Through change, push comes to shove, rubber meets the road, and I, of little faith, (God willing) begin to think beyond the grave and live accordingly. So here I go …plink, plink, plink, one little possession at a time, exchanging earth for heaven, trepidation for confidence, and spilling my doubts like dulled copper pennies transformed into a weightless fortune, padding my soul with wealth that never dwindles, gaining by forfeiting it all.
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