The Public Library’s “Most Wanted” List
by Hannah Keeley
One of our family’s favorite activities is going to the library. It always has been. I first started taking my kiddos to the library when they were just little babies. I would have one baby on my hip, one baby holding my hand, and another baby still cooking in my belly! Our weekly visit to the library was such a fun event–we could get all the books we wanted and it was totally FREE! Hoooweeee! You can’t beat that!
I remember when…
…the older kids were still little, I wasn’t very responsible with my library privileges. I lost a book and fines started accumulating. Then I let the kiddos check out some movies and forgot to bring them back. We were getting fined left and right. I remember one day when we went in for our weekly library visit. When I went to the desk to check the books out, the librarian informed me that my fines had run up too high and I could not check out any books until I paid down my charges. I looked at my kids’ faces. They were so excited about reading their “new” books that they had just piled up on the counter. Then I leaned in close and whispered to the librarian, “how much do I owe?”
She grimaced and replied through tight lips, “fifty-two dollars.”
It may as well have been fifty-two thousand dollars. That was more than I spent on groceries for a week! Blair was bringing home a salary of $1200 a month and we were budgeted down to the penny. There was no way I could come up with that kind of money, no way at all. This was a month after Blair’s birthday when I had collected spare change for weeks before I had eight dollars to buy a batting glove for him. FIFTY-TWO DOLLARS? That was crazy money, and certainly money that I did not have. I had to tell the kids that we couldn’t check out books and watch their faces fall in disappointment. The librarian felt horrible, but could not do anything about the situation. It was what it was. I owed a debt that I could not pay.
We quit going to the library after that. Weeks went by and the kids continued to ask, “Mama, can’t we go to the library, please?” I had to make up one excuse after another because I knew I owed more money than I could ever pay. It was horrible. I felt like I was on the library’s “most wanted” list!
Then Blair’s parents came to visit us for about a week. It was so much fun. They took us to the zoo one day and then took us out to eat the next day. Then one morning, we were sitting around drinking coffee and playing with the kids and one of them piped up, “Why don’t we go to the library today?” My heart sank! Blair’s dad immediately said, “That sounds like a great idea.” In desperation, I started coming up with several other activities we could do. We could go to the park! We could go on a picnic! Anything! I had this horrible vision of trying to check out books and disappointing my children (again) and embarrassing myself in front of Blair’s parents. But, the kids were insisting. “Oh, please, Granddad,” they said. “Please, let’s go to the library.” I could tell this was one battle I was not going to win, especially since I couldn’t come up with a decent excuse.
In less than an hour, I found myself at the library. The kids were grabbing books, overjoyed that they were back in their favorite stomping ground. Meanwhile, I was sweating like a pig and my heart was pounding in my chest, as I walked them up to the desk. My throat was totally closed up as the kids placed their books on the counter and the librarian started scanning them. I just wanted the floor to open up and swallow me whole!
Then it hit. The librarian got this sour look on her face as she stared at the computer screen. “I’m so sorry,” she said, “but your fines are too high to check out books at this time.” Immediately, I replied, “Oh, that’s okay,” and glanced down so she couldn’t see the tears forming in my eyes. I turned to the kids to tell them we couldn’t check out books, and gathered up my bag so I could rush out of there. But then Blair’s dad stepped up to the counter.
“I’ll take care of the fines,” he said.
“Oh, no,” I told him. “I can’t let you do that.”
He insisted. “Too bad,” he said. “I’m going to take care of this and you’re not going to talk me out of it!”
I stepped away from the counter and watched while my father-in-law took care of a debt that I owed. Simple as that. All that guilt, all that worry, those knots in my stomach–gone. I could now enjoy the freedom of weekly library visits once again.
We all owe a debt that we could never pay. Scripture tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” God is perfect. He is holy. He is righteous. But, all of us have sinned. I don’t care how big or little the sin is, it’s still sin; and it still keeps us out of God’s fellowship. It’s like we owe a debt to God–a price way too big for any of us to pay. It’s like me owing the library $52! It was just too much for me to pay. The price to get into heaven is perfection; and we fall waaaay short in being able to pay that.
God knew this, so He sent the only sacrifice that could foot the bill–His only son, Jesus. Jesus took all of our sin upon Himself and died on the cross. He stepped in front of us when we were at that library counter and said, “I’ll take care of these fines.” Then he willingly suffered and died for us. Because of the price Jesus paid, we can be forgiven from our sins and enjoy fellowship with God–both on earth and in heaven.
We can’t get into heaven because we are good. We get there because we are forgiven. No matter how you’ve sinned, no matter what you’ve done, God’s word (the Bible) tells us that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
Owing all that money to the library stole joy out of my life. It stole joy from my children. It left me in misery, feeling guilty and empty inside. Life without God can feel like that–empty. Sin creeps in and steals our joy and our fellowship with God. That’s not the kind of life that God wants for you. He intends for you to live with joy. That’s why He sent His son–for you!
If you have never trusted God with your life, I want to encourage you to do so today. Because of what Jesus did, God’s spirit can live within you–spreading joy and abundance to every single facet of your life. His word tells us that “He makes the crooked places straight and the rough places smooth.” If there are some crooked and rough places in your life, quit trying to straighten and smooth them on your own. It will never work. We are imperfect people that desperately need a perfect God. Trust Him with your life today. It’s a simple as saying a prayer and inviting Him in to your life to lead you.
Hannah Keeley was once in overwhelmed mom living in a cluttered house, deep in debt, out of shape, and barely hanging on. But one day, after finding herself sobbing uncontrollably into a pile of clean laundry, she realized God has bigger and better plans for her (just like He does for each one of His children). Beginning that day, she began making changes in her life that took her from overwhelmed to overjoyed. Today, she’s helping moms do the same. Hannah, her husband, Blair, and their seven children live in Richmond, Virginia, and are having the time of their lives!
Check out Hannah’s Website Here!