I was a poor law student living on $300 a month, and as soon as I saw the police cars down the road, I instinctively put my foot on the break. I couldn’t afford a ticket.
It was just a police checkpoint though. I slowed down, stopped beside the officer, and handed him my driver’s license. He furrowed his brow.
“You’re going to need to pull over. Your license is expired,” he said, writing me a $50 ticket.
I was crushed – $50 was my entertainment budget for the month. With my monthly entertainment usually consisting of a haircut and a handful of visits to Taco Bell, this was more than I could handle.
Fortunately, the officer told me I wouldn’t have to pay the ticket if I got a new license within two days. But I was two days away from my first law school exam. I didn’t have time to do anything but study, but I also didn’t have $50 to spend on a ticket.
The next day at the highway patrol office, after an hour-and-a-half wait, a heavy-set blond finally called my name. I sat down for my mug shot, filled out some paperwork, and waited for the license to come out of the machine.
“That’ll be $22,” she said.
“I thought it was $17.”
“It used to be – it’s $22 now.”
“Uh – ma’am, I’m really sorry about this, but I’m five bucks short,” I said.
“Then you can’t get a license,” she said flatly. “You’ll have to come back and get in line again.”
Going home to get $5.00 wasn’t an option. I literally needed every minute to study. In her one act of grace, the iron maiden of the highway patrol let me run out to my car to dig for change in the seats.
Despite my best efforts, I only managed to come up with $1.24 in change – $3.76 short.
“God,” I prayed in embarrassed frustration, “could you please give me $4.00? Like, could You just make it appear somewhere?”
Desperate for a miracle, I got out of the car and looked in the parking lot to see if the money was lying on the ground. It wasn’t.
I would have to go back and tell the heartless, portly woman that I would not be getting my license that day. I felt poor and pathetic and defeated.
As I shut the door to my car, an older, brown-headed woman drove up in a blue truck, parked, and got out. Then, without provocation, she walked straight over to me, and looked me in the eyes.
“Do you need something?” she asked, as if she already knew what I needed. I was taken aback.
“Uh – yes, actually I do,” I said. “If you don’t mind – I mean, I actually need four dollars.”
I then tried to explain my story, but before I could finish, she had taken four dollars out of her wallet and put it in my hand. My jaw dropped. I could hardly contain myself.
“You’re not going to believe this, but – just before you drove up, I asked Jesus to give me four dollars. And then – you just showed up and asked me what I needed. I mean, it’s like Jesus drove up and gave me the money.”
She smiled and said, “Well, I guess He’s got His children everywhere, doesn’t He?”
In a stupor, I went to the counter to pay for my license, thanking the kind woman again as I walked out. She took $20 out of her purse and tried to give it to me. “Are you sure you don’t need more?” she whispered.
“No, thank you,” I said. “That was just what I needed.”
To this day, I marvel that the lady so boldly approached me in the parking lot. Though she didn’t directly hear my prayer, God must have somehow shared the request with her. And thankfully, she was listening closely enough to hear His concern for my relatively minor need.
If she were like a lot of us, she might have ignored that prompting from God – it wouldn’t have been big enough. We want to change the world, to prove how big our God is, how big His plans are – but even a small task is big if it’s His will.
I prayed for four dollars, and God used a seemingly random lady to provide. But through her obedience, He provided more than pocket change. He showed me how much He loves me, that He cares about the details of my life, and that He sends people along to meet even my most basic needs (Matt. 10:42).
Most importantly, His love made me want to be more like that lady: keenly attuned to the voice of a God who longs to love a world in need of encouragement, sympathy – or maybe just four bucks.