We learn through story


My thoughts move slow through the situation.  I shift my perspective.  I organize details.  I think it into a narrative, and this helps me to remember.  I've never been one to memorize facts and figures, but tell me a story and I am all ears.




As a girl I would sit near the back of our mostly empty church on a hard wooden pew.  My sister and I would play tic-tac-toe or practice sign language alphabet.  Our dad would stand behind the pulpit preaching an inspired word, and when I sensed he was going into a story I would pay him all the attention he deserved.

Jesus spoke in stories.  He knew how to draw people in.  He knew how to get them to listen.  They didn't always understand the point he was trying to get across, but I imagine they did what I do.  They moved through the story, assigned faces to the figures, identified with the feelings and remembered.



This story began in October of last year.  My running man was preparing to finish another marathon on one of his favorite courses in Indianapolis.  He booked a hotel for us and a friend, but delayed registering for the race due to a recent injury and his current time restraints.

The race was getting closer, and his schedule was making it more and more difficult to train properly.  He knew he would not be prepared to finish in a time that would get him into Boston, and decided to pick the goal back up after Christmas.  We canceled our reservation, and wished our friend the best in the upcoming race.

December comes in its flurry of activities.  We purchase treasures for the people we love and wish to delight come Christmas Day.  I spend a lot of time and mental energy choosing gifts.  A lot!  And I keep my budget in perspective, always.  It's routine for me to check my purchases on my credit card, and on this day I see a charge on my card for nearly $150 for a hotel in Indianapolis.

A low level of anxiety sits beside me and squeezes my shoulders.  It removes my appetite, and my insides feel as though they are quivering.  I look down to notice that my hands have a bit of a shake to them.  When I face any type of situation that makes me uncomfortable I want it resolved immediately.

I call my husband at work, and give him the details of my angst.  You know, because he has nothing better to do in his already full schedule.  That patient man tells me he will call the hotel and get it taken care of.  Crisis averted.  I go back to my life of ease.


Except I don't.

The situation, I learn, is more complicated than we realize.  The hotel needs proof.  They need confirmation numbers for both of the rooms being canceled, and we only have possession of one, ours. It turns out that our friend also changed plans, and in innocence did not cancel their room correctly.

We wait for resolution.

It doesn't come.

I'm stuck in between a rock and a hard place, and neither side of me feels very good.  It's slow torture to think of putting out any type of money with nothing to show for it.  It's even worse to ask a friend for money and put them in the same situation that is giving me all kinds of regret.

The hotel won't budge on reversing the charge, and it wasn't from a lack of asking.  Tim called several times and he was getting nowhere.  My last effort was to contact my credit card company to dispute the charge.  They reversed the charge temporarily through the period of time it would be disputed, and stated they would update me with the result.

I waited.

Just before Christmas I received a letter in the mail stating they had contacted the hotel, and did not receive a response so they would permanently remove the charge.  Hallelujah!  Crisis averted.  I could put all of this mess behind me.

Except I can't.

A month later, it is all but forgotten.  I'm writing out my budget and checking balances when I see a new charge for a hotel in Indianapolis.  I'm exhausted with the whole situation, and at this point I just want it over.  I call the credit card company to find out what happened, and the very nice lady on the other end states that the hotel wants the confirmation numbers of the cancellation.  I nod in despair at my knowing.  There are no confirmation numbers.

I'm squeezed in again.  I'd done what I could, and all of my best efforts had gotten me nowhere.  I think the hardest part for me is accepting the difficult.  The things that are no one's fault.  The things that are unfortunate and should never have happened but did.  I'm at a loss.

I have nothing to give but a story when I call the hotel myself.  I ask to speak to the manager, and I wonder if they can tell how much I hate confrontation.  I don't speak well as I trip over words, but the man is kind and he listens patiently.  Surely he can feel my awkwardness.

I tell him the mistake.  I ask him for mercy or maybe a voucher that I don't really want but reason that it would be better than nothing at all.

He listens.

And after I spill out the mess of the past two months he graces me.  He tells me he understands the situation, and he would wipe away the balance.  That's it.  It's over.

This crisis wasn't averted.  It was very real and stressful and important to me, and I think I needed to learn some things through it.  I'm still processing this story, but my initial feeling is that I needed to get to the point of desperation before I could appreciate the gift of grace.


In all of my striving, I could not change the outcome.  I could not erase my own debt.  I needed a redeemer who could listen to my story and in his mercy change the outcome.

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