Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
How could counting cars painted green make such a difference in a man’s life? I hadn’t a clue until my friend told me. But first you must know something about Bob. I wish you could know him! He has that way of making me feel good, like seeing a happy, white Labrador dog coming my way. Bob is all wag and big smile! You see him and you know that he is at peace with God and himself, and with you.
But the other night Bob surprised me by telling me that he has not always been such a contented, blessed soul. Years ago he hit a rough patch in his life. Things were going bad to worse, and he couldn’t see any way out. Then a caring friend took Bob aside and gave him an assignment: “count every car you see tomorrow painted green and call me tomorrow night and report.”
Bob thought his friend’s request sounded as crazy as I did when Bob told me. But Bob was hurting and willing to give anything a try. Dutifully the next morning he started counting all the cars he saw painted green. Bob told me that he wasn’t expecting to see many green cars, thinking that most cars were painted black, white, silver. Surely not green. But Bob was actually surprised at how many green cars he saw, and called his friend that night to give him the day’s tally.
“Great!” Bob’s friend replied. “Now tomorrow I want you to count all the green cars you see and call me again to report.” Still not seeing any rhyme or reason to such a strange assignment, Bob counted up the next day what seemed to him an expanding universe of cars painted green. But when he called his friend that night to report, he just had to ask his friend: “Why am I doing this?”
“Well Bob”, his friend said, “you had no idea there were so many green cars until you started looking for them.” Bob agreed, he had no idea. “The truth is,” his friend explained: “you find what you are looking for. If you go looking for mean people, rejection, and pain, you will find it for sure. It’s all out there. But if you set about your day looking for love, for beauty, for unexpected grace, you will find it. Bob, we find what we look for.”
To know Bob is to know a man who finds what he looks for. The beauty he finds, and the love, are etched in his face. He carries grace in his bearing. He has become God’s conduit.
Like the aperture of a camera opens wide to let in more light, so Bob’s words to me the other night, let in light. I saw his point. So early the next morning, as I stood in a crowded line at the airport, I decided I would count “green cars”. Instead of counting TSA inspectors that were surly and gruff, and counting fellow travelers that were rude, I counted all the ones who had kindness and grace. And I’m glad to say that I found what I was looking for. Sure there are still black cars, and white cars, and silver cars, but I’m finding many more green cars than I imagined. And I’m finding them every day. I’m finding what I’m looking for. There are so many people who are truly caring, friendly, and eager to help a stranger. I hadn’t been looking.
Bob’s words the other night opened up more light for me on today’s ancient text. Sitting in a grim prison cell in Rome, the Apostle Paul writes of joy he finds all around (Philippians 1:12, 18; 4:4). And similarly, Paul calls for Christians everywhere to find joy in their circumstances as they look for things
“true…honourable…just…pure…pleasing…commendable…of excellence…worthy of praise”.
Bob, you are right. And Paul, you are right. We find what we look for!
Looking for grace and peace,
photo by K2D2vaca