A chaplain once asked me if I knew the difference between a spiritual problem and all other problems.
“There really isn’t a difference,” he said. “Most problems are spiritual problems.” His answer might help explain to my readers how my recent consumer problem became a spiritual problem.
My spiritually consuming problem started last month when my college daughter informed me that she’d misplaced her cell phone in her recent change of dorm rooms. “Not to worry,” she assured us, “it’s probably in a box somewhere.”
“Not to worry,” her mother told me, “we’ll be helping her unpack next week and find it then.”
But when our search came up empty, I said, “Not to worry, I’ll ask AT&T to turn off the phone.”
“Not to worry,” AT&T said. “We’ll turn the phone off.”
“But the old phone is still out there,” my wife fretted, “What if someone’s using it to call, say, Sweden?”
“Not to worry,” I said. “The AT&T store assured me at the time of purchase that the phone couldn’t be used for international calls.”
But worry we did when we opened the phone bill – $1,017 worth of Swedish calls.
I quickly called AT&T to tell them that someone had penetrated their security system by placing international calls on my phone that had no capability for such calls.
“Not to worry,” they said, “no security breach. We added the International capability as a courtesy.”
“But I didn’t want it.”
“Didn’t you notice the new feature on your statement, sir?” asked the customer representative.
“No, sir. Why would I search the bill for a feature I don’t have?”
“I’m sorry,” I told him, interrupting our “sir” volley, “but I need to pick up my daughter at the airport. Can I call you later?”
For the next few days my consumer problem festered and became a full-blown spiritual crisis. I tried asking myself, “What’s my energy all about? Is it really the thousand dollars?”
OK, yes, but, “not to worry,” it goes a little deeper.
And even though I tried to bury my obsessive thoughts on the matter, they managed to resurrect themselves during my Easter worship. As I began calculating what this lost phone would cost me, my pastor summoned me out of my fog with a question.
“What is stressing you?” he asked.
I looked up.
I directed a strong beam of mental energy forward to answer his question.
“You wanna know what’s stressing me, pastor? I’ll tell you. My phone company wants me to pay for the phone calls some jerk made to his Swedish girlfriend. Man, what a stupid question.”
Jeez, I think my pastor “heard” that.
Because then he asked, “Is God stressing about what you’re stressing about?”
For a moment it seemed as though a spotlight was focused on me. Only this spotlight was not directed from our audiovisual team – this spotlight was from a more unseen spectrum of light that was expert at exposing one’s heart.
The feeling of overwhelming unfairness of my saga was beginning to eclipse the joy God had been trying to introduce in my life – the homecoming of a college daughter, Easter celebrations, and even a few successful writing contests.
What is it about me, I asked myself, which was choosing to focus on the worst of things? What is it about me that wants to invest all my spiritual energy on the things that – at the end of the day – don’t bring any kind of real spiritual benefits?
The next day, on my way to work, AT&T called me.
“We received your email on this matter, Mr. Burkes, and not to worry” offered the encouraging voice, “I think we can dismiss such charges on a one-time basis.” Spiritual crisis resolved.