I straddle my motorcycle and give the “parkir” a 1,000 Indonesia Rupiah bill, worth about a dime in U.S. currency. A parkir’s job is to guard my motorcycle while I’m inside the store he stands in front of, and I have to pay him afterwards whether I requested his services or not. When I leave the parking lot he will blow a whistle to help me merge into oncoming traffic.
The standing price for motorcycle guarding in Indonesian parking lots is 500 Rupiah, or about a nickel. Usually when I give the 1,000 Rupiah bill, he will slowly walk to his bench with its large stack of coins, look over his shoulder to see if I am still there waiting for change. If I am, he will feel disappointed and walk overt to me and hand over the nickel.
I am. I am staring him down. I’m not going to play his game. The fair price is a nickel and I’m waiting for my change. Ah ha…I won! He hands it over and I sputter out of the parking lot, feeling vindicated.
But I don’t feel joy. I feel like I haven’t been cheated today, but that’s not joy. What I’m feeling is a petty form of justice. Joy is something extra, something deeper than happiness, something that makes up one-third of the kingdom of God: “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:7).
What did my exacting attitude for exact change get me? A lot of plastic bags of Indonesian nickels. What can you do with an Indonesian nickel? You can buy a piece of candy. You can buy a small plastic cup of water. But as an adult I really don’t buy candy and I go for water bottles, not cups.
So all that loose change sat in my house, inside those plastic bags, mocking me. What price did I pay for them? Instead of the joy of blessing these people called parkirs, chatting with them, getting to know them, maybe even praying for them or sharing Jesus, I saw them as my enemies. I got my nickels but those nickels got my joy.
Recently I was wondering why I wasn’t feeling joy more consistently. You know, that state of being that the Bible calls normative for people walking in faith: “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (I Peter 1:8).
That definitely wasn’t me. Nowhere near me. Then God spoke. One reason for my lack of joy was too much loose change in my pockets. There were many little things stealing my joy, just like the little foxes that ruined Solomon’s vineyards (Song of Solomon 2:15). Maybe it was some latent culture shock that was causing me to stare down those parkirs. Whatever the case, I needed to let it go. Release.
So I started something new. Now when a parkir collects the 1,000 bill and slowly saunters to his bench, I wait for him to turn toward me, and then I do something radical, something revolutionary, something joy-inspiring. “Keep the change,” I say with a smile. He gets his extra nickel, he is happy. I get some of my joy back, I am happy.
What loose change is stealing your joy today? Do you have to keep keeping it? Can you let it go?