Friday, November 27, 2009

Insert Coins Then Make Your Selection

        More than two weeks since I've posted...  Really, I tried yesterday, but my online service was not cooperating.  As for the period before... well, let's just say there's an elephant in the room I'm not prepared to address publicly just yet.  As for what was on my mind yesterday...  Behold the simple vending machine:

...lots of options, simple principle -- you get what you want when you give it what it wants.  Works everytime -- right?

        We have a couple of vending machines at work that work on the "slot machine principle" -- lots of coin in, just enough payout to keep you coming back.  From time to time I will pack some sort of snack or sandwich just to get around the frustration of dealing with those manipulative machines.  Eventually though, I am compelled to return, dropping in more money than I would pay for a family-size bag of some artery-clogging crap and paying twice the price for a warm, slightly expired soda, only to have the machine jam and dangle my Bugles before me like one of those stupid cat teaser toys.  I bang and fume and kick.  I turn as if some hidden camera crew is waiting to jump from hiding and joyfully reveal to me their ruse.  Satisfied no one is watching, or annoyed to the point at which I will not be beaten by an inanimate object regardless of an audience, I exhale, shrug my jacket sleeves up, position my trademark stillettos on the floor, and slam the top of the machine for all I am worth.  It rocks back, and I catch it on the return, rocking it back even harder.  In the end, I win -- forcing the machine to drop its dislodged bounty into the tray.  I open the door and retrieve it with a smirk of satisfaction, straightening my suddenly fabulous attire, and standing just a little taller, pleased with myself for putting the kibosh on that malevolent machine's unscrupulous practice.

        It occurred to me yesterday, that sometimes we treat God like the vending machine.  We put our money, our time, our faith in, and we expect to get just what we want right back.  "Have it your way."  "I want it all and I want it now."  "...right at your fingertips."  (Insert your instant gratification, self-serving, entitlement cliche' here.)

        How many times have we fumed and raged because we gave of ourselves and our precious dollars and "nothing came out."  We are still struggling to pay our bills, we are still pressed for time between carpools and clean-ups.  "When does God payback what He owes?"  Our sinful, ego-bound hearts seethe with perceived privilege; we are determined not to be taken advantage of!

        Or how often do we live "good, faithful, righteous" lives only to get those things we do not want?  "I never asked for MS!"  "I earned the good parents."  We all want to give that vending machine a kick or a shake just to get what we think we deserve.

        And the immediacy with which we expect results?  Feed the homeless here, get a bonus at work there.  We look at each potential windfall as God working to finally dispense the good fortune we desire, the reward we deserve, the paycheck we've earned in His service.  When our bounty doesn't fall, our frustration builds.  We become disenchanted with our very Savior, the One who gave His Life that we might live.

        I've received the "bounty at the bottom of the machine," and I've learned it was my arrogance and my foolishness that dropped it there and allowed me to walk away satisfied.  In the light of God's abundance and grace, it was offal for which I fought so long and hard -- a bag of six stale, broken chips and a warm, flat, dented can of gingerale with something growing over the opening at the top.  God had so much more planned for me; how could I have been so pompous as to think anything I could squeeze from His hand would be better than what He could graciously give?

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