How God Works: A Credit Card Metaphor
First, I want to tell you a small story of something that just happened to us yesterday. The story itself has nothing to do with God and also has everything to do with God.
My husband and I were considering switching banks, so we opened an account at a new bank. We ordered checks and credit cards from the new account. Since we weren’t 100% sure about making the switch, we left our original account open and continued to process all our transactions through the original bank account.
After a month, we decided to close the new account and stick with our old bank. In preparation for closing the account, I logged onto online banking to transfer the balance out.
I was shocked to see that we had racked up the shekel equivalent of hundreds of dollars of charges on the credit card associated with this new account. These were legitimate charges – from the phone company, from the electric company and so forth. But we had no idea how they had gotten this new credit card number! To the best of our recollection, neither of us had ever contacted anyone to change the billing information, especially since we were thinking of closing the new account.
It was a huge puzzlement, one that frustrated me. I just couldn’t fathom how it could have happened that these companies were charging a card we had never told them about.
Finally, yesterday, as we sat in front of the banker closing the account, the penny dropped. Or, as we say in Hebrew nafal li ha’asimon. (Cultural tidbit - An asimon is an Israeli telephone token used to operate public phones until the end of the 1980s.)
Sitting at the banker’s desk, we mentioned in passing that we couldn’t understand how these companies had gotten the new (now cancelled) credit card account information.
“When we opened the account, you asked me to transfer all your regular bills to the new account,” he said matter-of-factly.
In that instant, the problem we had been puzzling over for weeks became crystal clear.
And in that story of the mystery of the credit card charges is a(n imperfect) metaphor for the way I understand God.
We live through a painful experience and we can’t understand why it had to play out that way. It seems unjust, unfair or just plain wrong.
Or something amazing happens and we don’t understand by what merit we could have been so blessed.
Or something happens in the news, like a rabbi who lost his life trying to save a student from drowning in the ocean or a 2 year-old who desperately needs a lifesaving drug that costs $2.2 million . We are perplexed, unable to comprehend how such things can happen in our world.
But behind the scenes, in the spiritual realm, there is an unseen Force whose actions impact what we experience in our daily lives.
We call that Force God.
We knew we were being charged on a card whose number we had never shared and we couldn’t figure out why. Just one sentence from our banker cleared up the whole mystery. There was one piece of information we were missing.
Similarly, we live in a world where we see the impact, the outcome, of God’s influence. But we rarely see the whole picture.
Breslov chassidut teaches that everything God does is for the good, even if we can’t see it at the time. A similar idea is found in a quote, widely attributed to John Lennon, but certainly from an earlier source: "Everything will be okay in the end. If it's not okay, it's not the end."
For the person of faith, God is the Unseen Hand. In reality, we live our lives without knowing the full picture, without understanding everything (anything?) that goes on in the spiritual realm and how it impacts what we experience down here in the physical world.
To me, that is the essence of being a faithful person. I trust that God is running the world, even when (especially when) what I experience doesn’t make sense to my rational mind.
And I was reminded of that lesson from a simple credit card snafu.
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