Saturday was filled with chores. Jeff’s knee throbbed and he was grumpy with Aunt Harriet all day.
He had hours to think about the money and what he was going to do with it but he put off calling the doctor.
And he made everything worse by lying to his mother when she asked what was really wrong. He mumbled an answer just to get her off his back, amazed as always, how she could tell.
That night, he searched in his Bible and found out about the Fruit of the Spirit–and he wished he hadn’t. Apparently, this fruit was not like normal fruit–oranges and bananas and apples.
These fruits were things like love and kindness and truth. He didn’t feel like acting in any of these ways but it seemed that if he wanted to please God, he should let these things grow in his life.
He really didn’t like the “joy” one. He certainly hadn’t felt joyful at all today. But he fell asleep wondering if it had been all that great feeling so angry and miserable either.
By Sunday morning, Jeff’s knee was still very sore. His bicycle was in the shed with little hope of ever being fixed. Aunt Harriet let him go to Sunday School even though he was grounded. He was surprised at that as she usually curtailed anything he really wanted to do. Halfway there, he wished he hadn’t tried it. The swelling in the knee was going down and Mom didn’t think he’d broken anything but walking was still very painful.
His friend, Tim, and his family were passing by in their car and he had never been so grateful for a ride.
“You should have called,” said Tim’s father, when Jeff told about his demolished bike. “We’ll take you home, at least.”
“Is that knee all right?” asked the grandmother, anxiously. “You could have been hurt a lot worse in an accident like that! You’re lucky you didn’t hit your head.”
Jeff wondered what it would be like to have nice, caring relatives like Tim’s instead of old Aunt Harriet.
Before Sunday School, Jeff told Tim the rest of what had happened and asked what he thought. Tim had been a Christian for years—since he was a little kid. He knew a lot about what God thought. Tim confirmed what God had been speaking to Jeff in his heart all weekend. Be kind to Aunt Harriet. Tell the truth. Give it back.
Jeff sighed. He’d really hoped God would let him keep the money. Visions of a brand new bike swept through his head. He’d even thought of hiding it in the cave where Aunt Harriet would never see it. And he could get something really nice for his mother’s birthday for once. She never had nice things since Dad died.
But he sighed again. She’d be so disappointed if she ever found out where he got the money that it wouldn’t be worth it. And he knew even if Aunt Harriet and Mom never found out about the new bike, God would still see it.
Tim seemed to know all about the Fruit of the Spirit, too. He told Jeff that when he become a Christian, this “fruit” became part of him. If Jeff would let God have His way, he would be happy instead of miserable even in the midst of his problems.
That didn’t make sense. It all seemed backwards to Jeff.
“It’s not,” insisted Tim, “‘cuz the Bible says that God’s ways are not our ways.”
This was all so new to Jeff. But maybe, just maybe he’d give it a try.
Sunday lunch was over. Jeff sat in his room, turning the wallet over and over in his hands. He had brought Aunt Harriet’s old cordless phone into his room with him and closed the door.
He finally dialed the number on the business card. It was the new little clinic in town and there were Sunday hours listed.
Jeff listened as the telephone rang and rang. He was about to give up, when a man’s voice suddenly said, “hello?”
“Dr. Conners here.”
“Uh….” This was the man! This is who the wallet belonged to!
“Hello?” the man repeated, patiently.
All right, just do it! This is ridiculous! “I—I found your wallet, Dr. Conners.”
“You did? My wallet! Who is this?”
“Uh, my name is Jeff.”
“Well, can you give me your address? I’ll be right over! Thank you! Thank you so much! This is wonderful!”
Jeff wondered why the man sounded so excited. After all, it was only five hundred dollars. Doctors were supposed to be rich, weren’t they? Surely that wasn’t a lot to him even though it seemed like a million bucks to Jeff.
“I’ll come there,” and Jeff, quickly.
Jeff hung up. He didn’t want the man coming to his house! Aunt Harriet would want to know every detail and she’d go on and on about it.
Then he suddenly remembered. He was grounded! He couldn’t go anywhere.
“I’ll have to tell Mom. She’ll be disappointed but it won’t be like Aunt Harriet knowing. It’s what I should have done back on Friday!“ he mused aloud.
Now he understood what people meant about time going slowly. It felt like a year since he’d found that silly wallet.
“I’m proud of you, Jeff,” said his mother, a while later. “You did the right thing.”
She grinned slightly. “I’d be prouder if you’d done it right away. And you would have saved yourself a lot of grief.”
“I know,” he grinned back, sheepishly.
She had forgiven him for not telling her the whole truth and they’d prayed together. He’d asked God to forgive him for the whole mess.
“But you know what? A few weeks ago, you wouldn’t have cared at all. God’s working in your heart, Jeff. You have to learn to listen but as you go along in your Christian life and keep growing in Him, you’ll become more and more familiar with His voice.”
“I wish there weren’t any temptations. It was almost easier when I wasn’t a Christian. It was easier.”
“Not really. You’ve got God to help you now if you let Him. If you’d kept going the way you were, you’d be going down a very bad road of anger and fighting and cheating and sin that would have gotten worse and worse. God will give you the power if you ask Him.”
“Okay,” he said relieved.
“You go ahead and return the wallet and I’ll tell Aunt Harriet you had an errand to run and I gave you permission.”
“She’ll have a fit and take it out on you.”
“Don’t worry about me.”
“But I do, Mom.”
“I know you do but I’m all right.”
“You’re always so nice to her even when she’s horrible to you.”
His mom gave him a hug. “We won’t be here forever. Some day we’ll have our own place again.”
He headed toward town, taking his bicycle with him. Tim’s father was a mechanic at a garage that was not far from the clinic. He had offered to fix the bicycle when he had time. Jeff didn’t have much hope of that. Tim’s father was a nice guy but he was extremely busy. The garage was always full of things needing to be fixed but he decided he’d leave the bicycle off anyway, just in case.
He reached the center of town within a short time. He was passing an alley now where some kids were spray painting graffiti on the walls and he suddenly froze.
It was the three teenagers from the woods!
They turned and stared right at him. And at his bike! He saw that they recognized it and he took off at a run, wheeling his bike along and trying to ignore the pain in his knee.
But they were on him in a matter of seconds! He knew he was in big trouble now!
To Be Continued….
By Carol Bennett