There is a philanthropic sales strategy that goes like this: Ask for a very large donation, and when they say no, ask for a smaller donation. They will be so relieved at the opportunity to clear their conscience of saying no the first time that far more people will say yes to this smaller donation than if you had asked for this smaller amount in the first place. Sneaky, but effective.
I have found that on occasion, God uses a similar strategy with me. This shouldn’t surprise me. After all, God created the human psyche. He, more than anyone, should know how to put it to good use. Take, for example, this evening as I am going for my walk. My route takes me past a parking lot, and I happen to notice in passing that someone is sitting slouched down in the front seat of a car with the door ajar. As I walk on by, my imagination takes over. He or she is probably just waiting for someone who has run into the store, but I can’t help but wonder – what if it is someone who needs help? What if they are ill, or passed out? Maybe I should have looked closer. Maybe I should have asked if they were okay.
I keep walking, but I am listening now. Tell me what to do, God.
Around the corner, I spy my second opportunity. There, in the middle of the road, is a turtle. His legs are tucked into his shell, but his head is out and looking around. I walk over and look at it. This isn’t a terribly busy road, but busy enough. If he hangs out here much longer he is going to be crushed. He also appears to be heading in the wrong direction – away from the wetlands. But then, what do I know about turtles? I look at his shell. It is jagged along the back. Doesn’t that mean it’s a snapping turtle? I can’t just pick him up, then, can I? What if he bites my finger off??
As I am standing there pondering the turtle, I am reminded of a time not too long ago when a bird got trapped in the stairwell at work. I was coming down the stairs when I saw him, and without a second thought I snatched him from where he was beating himself against the window and tossed him outside. My colleague was standing with his mouth agape. “I can’t believe you just did that,” he said. “He could have bit you!”
I just laughed at him. “It’s a sparrow, not a velociraptor!” I said. And I laughed the whole rest of the afternoon.
Now, as I stand in the middle of the road looking at the turtle, I hear my own taunting voice. “It’s a turtle, not a velociraptor!” But the fact remains, I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to pick him up. I don’t know if I should pick him up. “I don’t know, Lord,” I say. And when I do not hear an answer, I turn and walk away.
I keep looking back, though. At one point I think he has moved a little. A few cars go by, but thankfully swerve around him. And then, an amazing thing happens. A car pulls over and a man gets out, picks up the turtle, and returns him to the grass near the water. Relief washes over me. I am too far away to call out to him, but I just keep thinking: There. A good Samaritan. Thank you. And secondly: I guess I could have just picked him up. Now I know.
I continue my walk with a much lighter heart, but I am fully expecting it when I see the third noteworthy item on my walk. A piece of trash. “Okay, God, okay,” I say as I bend down to pick it up. “This is a donation I can give. Probably your plan all along.”
As I pass back by the parking lot (toting an accumulating fistful of trash), I look to see if the car is gone. It is. So it had indeed been someone just waiting. All three dilemmas are solved. I bend down and pick up another piece of trash. My contribution, for today, towards a better world.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters (Collossians 3:23).