The Dollar Bill

Toys with dollar

I still remember the time I secretly left a dollar bill on the toy shelf at the local Kmart. I had heard that when you gave, God would repay you manifold. I was putting this teaching to the test.

Back then I was always finding coins on the sidewalk, in parking lots, in the sand under the monkeybars at the playground. I knew what it felt like to spot the glint and swoop in to pocket the shiny coin. For someone who treasured pennies and dimes from the sidewalk, an entire dollar bill was on par with the mega-millions lotto. I could picture the face of the one who found it, and the mere thought filled me with joy. I was about to totally make someone’s day.

I strolled up and down a few aisles, looking for the perfect place. Eventually I settled on a spot where no one was watching, but someone was sure to find it. I set it in an opening next to a box and scurried around the corner. They wouldn’t even have to bend down to pick it up off the floor – it would be right there on the shelf, waiting for them. I smiled all the way to the checkout.

I handed the cashier the stuffed toy that would complete my Christmas shopping. That cashier will never know what part she played in the lesson that followed, because as she swiped the toy across the scanner, I saw the price ring up with an unexpected sale price. Several dollars less than I expected.

It had been less than five minutes, and God had already shown up and repaid me manifold.

That was fast, I thought.

When we are young in our faith and cautiously reaching out to see if this God we have heard about is really there, He often responds with amazing clarity. The Bible says that when we seek God we will find Him when we seek him with our whole heart. No matter what our age, when we first begin to genuinely search, His presence can be immediate, forceful, and awe-inspiring. But God does not always respond that way. He does not want us to confuse Him with the good gifts that He gives us, and sometimes His lessons are not so straightforward.

What I may not have realized in my early lessons was that a relationship with God was not merely about me following his advice and then reaping the benefits. A relationship with God meant having a relationship not just with the gifts, but with the gift giver. It meant there would be times I would give and not receive – at least not in a way I understood. It meant there would be times I would test teachings and they would seem to fail. I would ask questions and not receive answers. I would struggle and still not understand. Part of having a relationship with God is recognizing the counterintuitive fact that the closer we grow to God, the more distant He may sometimes feel.

Cross and Bible
The closer we grow to God, the more distant He may sometimes feel. (Photo by Janet Beagle)

There are several reasons for this, but here are two. First, we begin to recognize just what separates us from God. We are mere flecks of dust asking questions of the Creator God. We are covered in sin and seeking intimacy with the Holy of Holies. Of course there will be moments where the gulf seems insurmountable. Yet we know, because God has promised us, that even when we feel the distance, He is with us. Even until the very end of the age.

Second, God’s entire purpose is for us to grow in the likeness of His Son, Jesus. God meets us where we are, but He does not allow us to stay there. He steps back, drawing us to Him. Then He steps back again, drawing us ever closer into His likeness and into His ultimate presence. During those moments when we cry out, “Where are you God?” He may be whispering, “I’m right here. Step forward.”

Looking back on that dollar bill in the toy aisle, I see how much I have grown. If the costs seem greater now, I take that as a good sign. Because that means the glimpses of God are greater now too. I am still reaching out, still testing. And God is still drawing me closer.



Janet Beagle
Janet Beagle, Ph.D.


Janet Beagle, Ph.D. serves as director of graduate admissions for Purdue University and is a writer, a Bible study teacher, and a student of God’s word. In her spare time, she likes to eat other people’s cooking and hike with her dog, Marly. Read more of Janet’s Christian reflections at, and follow her @minimustard.


  1. Excellent. This resonates with me. I have seen God show Himself so incredibly to new believers in ways that blow all of our minds. Yet, as you said, as we mature in Him, there are times that He seems to step back. Kinda like a parent, who stops holding their child’s hand with every step they take because they can are not a toddler anymore.

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