Dr. Thomas Lane Butts: The Coat Hanger

Before I tell you this story, the source of which I do not know, let me make two observations, the first of which is confessional.

When I was young and knew more than I know now, I did not think people should bother God with trivial things, such as, "Help me find a parking place, Don't let me be late for this appointment, Help me find my car keys," Etc.. God is running a big universe. Take care of your own little problems. But then as the years passed, I found myself praying, "Lord, help me get through this traffic, Don't let me have a flat tire on this long bridge, Help me find my car keys," Etc.. Well, so much for my educated philosophy of prayer!!!

Second thing. When I tell a story people sometimes ask the name of the protagonist and the date and place it happened. Well, such details in a parable-like story have no significant bearing on the truth of the story. Jesus often told stories that began, "There was a man who had two sons....., A certain creditor had two debtors...., A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and he fell among robbers....". Jesus' parables often had no name or date, but the profound meaning was not impaired by the absence of such specifics.

When my children were young they would tease me by asking: "Daddy, is that a true story or are you just preaching?" My standard reply was: "Daddy's stories are always true whether they happened or not." In his book, "My Reading Life", Pat Conroy commented, "The most powerful words in English are 'tell me a story'...".

So, let me tell you a story.

A woman was at work when she received a phone call that her small daughter was very sick with a fever. She left her work and stopped by the pharmacy to get some medicine. When she got back to her car she found she had locked her keys in the car. She did not know what to do, so she called home and told the baby sitter what had happened.

The baby sitter told her that the fever was getting worse, and then said she had heard that you could use a coat hanger to open a locked car door. The woman looked around and found an old rusty coat hanger that had been left on the ground, possibly by someone else who at some time had locked their keys in their car. She looked at the coat hanger and said to herself, "I don't know how to use this!" In desperation she bowed her head and asked God to send help.

Within five minutes a beat-up old motorcycle pulled up, with a dirty, greasy, bearded man who was wearing an old biker skull rag on his head. The woman thought, "This is what God has sent me?!" But she was desperate, so she hesitatingly breathed a prayer of thanks. The man got off his motorcycle and asked if he could help. She said, "Yes, my daughter is very sick. I stopped to get her some medicine and locked my keys in the car. I must get home to my child. Please, can you use this coat hanger to unlock my car?"

He said, "Sure." He walked over to the car, and in less than a minute he had opened the car door. She hugged the man and through her tears said, "Thank you so much. You are a very nice man." The man replied, "Lady, I am not a nice man. I just got out of prison today. I was in prison for car theft and have only been out for about an hour." The woman hugged the man again and between sobs cried out loud, "Oh, thank you God! You even sent me a Professional!!!"

Hmmmm. Go on and pray for what you need. You never know how your prayer will be answered.