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Sherry Prays Once

by Merikay Silver

God’s never been very real to me. Not that I don’t believe in His existence. It’s just that, well, He’s an Idea. Something like the clouds out there in the blue, but not affecting my day-to-day life much.
It used to bug me the way people would say, “The Lord did this for me,” or “The Lord opened this door or that door.” I have a brain, and I know the only person who opens doors and does things for me is me. Anyway, I used to know it.
I guess my story really starts during Christmas vacation. I had just brought my girlfriend back from a date, and we were sitting in the car in her driveway and she was talking. I don’t remember what she was saying, because I had my mind on the term paper I was going to ask her to type for me.
“Hey, Sherry,” I tried to sound as if it were a new idea. “Would you by any chance be interested in typing something for me?”
Sherry’s a Christian. She smiled and said she wouldn’t mind. I reached behind the seat of the car to get my briefcase, but it wasn’t there. I looked behind the seat, but couldn’t see it. I opened the door of the car, grabbed a flashlight, checked the trunk, and gave the whole auto a good once over. No briefcase anywhere.
“You probably left it at home,” she said.
I knew I hadn’t left it at home.
“I had my term paper in that briefcase,” I tried not to sound as angry as I was. Besides that my briefcase contained almost $200 in cash, my credit cards, and the watch Sherry had given me for my birthday.
“Why don’t we pray about it?” she suggested.
Pray? I’d never been caught like this before, but I couldn’t let her know I didn’t want to pray. I didn’t want her to think I was an unbeliever.
“But not out loud,” I said.
We bowed our heads. It was dark, and the car lights going by embarrassed me. I wondered what people thought about us. Most couples kiss at the end of a date, and here we were standing beside the car, praying.
In a moment (a very long moment for me) it was over.
“There. Now it’s all taken care of,” Sherry said.
But it wasn’t all taken care of. I walked her to the door, declined an invitation from her mother to come inside, and headed for home. When I got there, I took the flashlight and went through the car again.
The briefcase had been with me when I took the car in for its annual checkup. Then I had gone to Richard’s Art Supply and Service to buy some canvas and oils. Then I had come home. I remembered seeing the briefcase when I was at the garage. But I couldn’t remember it after that. I must have left it at the garage.
The next morning, when the garage opened its doors, I was waiting. “Trouble with your car?” the owner asked.
“No. It’s running fine. I’m wondering if you saw my briefcase sitting around here anyplace. It’s brown leather with gold snaps,” I added hopefully.
He shook his head. “You can ask around, but I haven’t seen it. If you left it here, it probably got lifted. Kids come in all the time and pick up stuff that’s sitting around.”
After asking a couple other people and receiving negative answers, I searched the garage myself. But the briefcase was not to be found.
I headed for the art store. Maybe I left the thing there. But Richard’s Art Supply and Service was closed for the holidays. I knew it wouldn’t be there anyway, but I was mad because the store was closed.
“Thanks a whole big lot!” I aimed the bitter remark out into the blue, in case He was listening.
That night Sherry was bubbling as always. I was moody.
"Come on,” she finally said. “Your briefcase is going to show up, so quit being so gloomy. I’ll help you tomorrow, and together we’ll get a term paper turned out fast. I’ll type it and you won’t have lost a thing.”
“Except $200, the wristwatch you gave me, and my briefcase.” I was desperate. “Maybe we should pray again,” I said. Those words coming from me embarrassed me as much as they had the night before when she’d said them.
“Why?” Sherry looked at me.
“Well, because—” I fished around.
“We prayed once. God’s not deaf. There’s no need to pray again.”
I suddenly had a headache and had to go home. All the way home I racked my brain over the briefcase. After brainstorming, I prayed to be able to remember where it was.
Sherry prays once and is certain that everything is going to work out, I thought. Very, very simple. I prayed, racked my brain, and then prayed again, but I knew it was all hopeless.
Christmas vacation ended, and we headed back for another quarter of campus life. I tried to forget the briefcase. Other things were going along fine, and I didn’t want to be reminded about the unhappy loss.
The weeks went by—three, four, five, six of them. If the briefcase was mentioned, Sherry just said, “He’ll bring it back.”
People laughed at her behind her back. Some kids admired her, but she was too idealistic. You know, with the Middle East, pollution, and campus revolutions, what could God afford to do about a briefcase?
I was embarrassed, ashamed, and sorry for her naïveté, but nothing would change her mind. Nothing . . . “Just wait,” she said. “You’ll see.”
Spring was breaking through the snow and ice when the next vacation came. We were eager for a change in our tidy study schedules. And I needed some time to work on another term paper and catch up with my lagging business office account.
On our first Sabbath at home, Sherry and I went to church together. A man asked half-jokingly about the briefcase.
Before I could say anything, Sherry spoke up. “The Lord is taking good care of it,” she said. “He’ll bring it back.”
His face broke into a wise condescending smile, as if he were going to pat her on the head and say, “Come, come, my child, let’s be realistic about things.”
I was embarrassed but furious at his response to Sherry’s words. “It will come back,” I heard myself say.
The fierceness of my tone startled him. His mouth straightened into rigid lines, and he walked away.
Sherry smiled at me. I wished she hadn’t. I didn’t believe the words I’d said. It’s just that I couldn’t stand everybody thinking she was sweet but deluded.
It was during Sabbath dinner that we got the telephone call.
I was the closest to the telephone, so I answered it.
“Hello, this is Mr. Jim Peterson from Richard’s Art Supply and Service. I think you left a briefcase in here about Christmastime.”
I suddenly felt cold all over.
“We’ve been trying to contact you,” the voice went on, “but we haven’t had any answer at this number.”
“My folks work during the day,” I said. It was hard to talk. That idea out there in the blue was crowding very close.
Mom and Dad and Sherry stared at me with worried faces and mouthed the questions, What’s wrong? What’s happened?”
But the voice was still talking. “If you could pick it up as soon as possible, we’d appreciate it.”
“You mean everything is still there?”
“I’ll be down first thing Monday morning,” I said as I hung up.
The story tumbled out. We were all amazed. That is, all of us except Sherry.
Merikay Silver writes from California.


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