I had some time to kill downtown so I went to Enstrom’s to have some tea and watch the toffee being made. When I reached in my wallet to pay I was a penny short. This is when I noticed the gal behind the counter’s name—Karin. I’ve seen her countless times before but never caught the nametag.
“Oh don’t worry about the penny. I’ve got some right here,” Karin said reaching into a spare penny cup she’d tucked away behind the register.
“Thank you. It’s ironic for me to not have a penny today,” I said. “I find pennies every day and today on my penny anniversary I don’t have one. That’s classic!”
“I find pennies too—but I don’t think I have an anniversary,” she said. “How does that work?”
“Well it was ten years ago, about this time of day actually, that a friend called and asked me to pray for him. I was out walking and when I sat down in front of a neighbor’s house so I could focus, I put my hand in a pile of four pennies while I was praying for him. When I was finished I told him about the pennies and said I thought it was sign that he should “believe four” what we’d just prayed about.”
“Then the next day on my walk I found another penny and since then as far as I can remember I’ve found at least a penny a day.”
“No. But I like that thought.”
“I’ve saved every penny I’ve ever found. I think they come from heaven,” Karin said.
“People say that,” I said smiling at her.
“I keep mine in jars and old fashioned banks. I’m saving them until I feel like I know what I’m supposed to do with them.”
“I give mine away every year except for three that I keep. One has an angel on it, another a cross, and one has a sticker with a note that says, ‘I am a child of God.’ That’s the one that made me realize this wasn’t something random. God was trying to tell me something.”
“I think you’re right,” she said. “But what?”
“Over the years I’ve thought it was lots of different things and I think that’s true to some extent. One prevailing theme is always a reminder to trust God. I also think He wants me to remember He’ll provide whatever I need. Another is a reminder to think about what I’m thinking about. Change in your life starts with a whisper so I think God is often introducing a new thought.”
“Definitely,” she said.
“More than anything though, and it’s taken me ten years to figure it out, is that God is trying to tell me I have value to Him.”
“He loves you.”
“Yes but it’s more than that. It’s a reminder that I don’t have to find my value outside myself.”
“That’s true but easy to forget,” she said.
Our conversation came to its natural end and when I settled in my chair to watch the toffee makers I thought about how long it’s taken for me to fully grasp the most obvious point. Even the penny with the note from God on it didn’t sink the message deep into my bones.
Intellectually I know my value is intrinsic and only defined by God but at the heart-level do I live like I believe this? Not enough. In the day-to-day of carrying on with the business of life I start to think more like a consumer than a child of God.
I know when I plunk down almost $5 for a latte at Starbucks there’s something ridiculous in this equation but value isn’t determined by actual cost it’s determined by what people are willing to pay. I play the game though because that cup in my hand is like a little security blanket.
This thinking seeps into other areas of my life and before I know it I find my value in who I know, what I wear, what I’ve accomplished, who calls me back, or how much I’m appreciated—or not appreciated.
Social media only makes this worse. In this realm how many likes shares, friends, and followers you have determines value. In no other reality is going viral a good thing except on the Internet.
The message of the Gospel tells me otherwise. Jesus says I’m loved and valued just because I exist. I don’t have to do anything to earn that favor. Sadly, the favor of man is as seductive as the Starbucks. It warms you up but if your value is found in it, every day you need another fix!
I think this is what God is trying to tell me with the pennies—that I’m his treasure and because of that I don’t have to try and find my value. It’s already found me.
What a gift! 30,091 pennies later that daily reminder means as much to me as it did ten years ago. The only difference is I realize God wasn’t talking nearly as much about faith in Him as in my relationship with Him and how that defines me not the world.