Billy Coffey
Billy Coffey

Wrong number

July 10, 2014  

image courtesy of photo

image courtesy of photo

I said “Stupid phone,” but what I really meant to say was “Stupid me.” I tried the number again and remembered the old adage about the definition of insanity being to try the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Same result—“…the number you are trying to reach is not in service…”


I hung up the phone and stared at the numbers I had scrawled on a old receipt three days earlier, just after I’d met Chris coming out of the grocery store. Hadn’t seen him in years, and maybe not since our graduation. We stood there and talked for a half an hour about everything from jobs to family, then said our goodbyes and promised to keep in touch.

“Let’s go fishing Friday evening,” he said. “Let me give you my number.”

The past few weeks had been a mess of things to do that hadn’t been done, of stress and worry and fretting. I’d ended plenty of prayers over that time with, “And Lord, if You could toss a little happiness my way, that would be great. Amen.”

I waited and prayed. And when that didn’t work, I prayed and waited.

I was still doing both when I ran into Chris at the store, and I thought Yes, finally my answer! Fishing. Yes. Fishing was exactly what I needed to get me out of my slump. One afternoon by a creek in the mountains, with nothing but sunshine and water and company.

But then I tried calling him and…well, you know.

By Thursday, I’d all but given up. I tried the number twice more that morning and got the same mechanical voice. By Friday evening, I had balled up the number and tossed it into the trash. But I did keep praying. Not because I was a devoted saint, but because I didn’t have much else to do.

Then came Friday evening. Still in the dumps, still praying for relief. It was a typical evening in the Coffey house—a nice dinner followed by some time outside. But something happened to me between the kickball game and the bug chase and the popsicles on the front porch. Something unexpected and wonderful.

My heart started to beat again.

One minute I was rolling a ball toward my daughter and then trying to chase her down before she reached home plate, and the next I was laughing again.

And one minute I was eating an orange popsicle, and the next I was sighing with contentment.

I couldn’t explain it then. Can’t explain it now.

Maybe it was just the chance to enjoy a normal night in the summertime, to enjoy the sun and the company and just let go.

Maybe it was the opportunity to allow myself to forget the pressures of life and for one glorious moment become a child again.


But maybe it was more than that.

Chris called me the next morning wondering why I hadn’t gotten back with him. I went through the story about the mechanical voice. Turned out I had the numbers wrong.

I’d been calling the wrong number all week.

It felt like I’d had the wrong number to God all week, too. I had kept dialing and got some angelic voice that said all lines were busy or, worse, that the number had been disconnected.

That wasn’t the first time I’d felt that way, of course. If I could somehow tally the number of prayers I’ve said over my life and put them up against how many of them were answered the way I wanted them, the average wouldn’t be very good. That wasn’t God’s fault, though. It was mine. I’d been asking for the wrong things.

But this one was different. All I’d asked for was some happiness. How could there possibly be anything wrong with that? After all, God wants us to be happy.


Yes. But what I forgot was the very thing we all forget sometimes. The happiness we seek isn’t always the happiness God wants us to have. His version of it is better. More secure and more lasting. I think that’s the real reason why I ended up missing the fish but catching an evening with my family.

Because God often will not give us our happiness. He’d rather give us His.

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3 Responses to “Wrong number”

  1. Billy's wife says:

    It never ceases to amaze me when God lays the same thing on our hearts. Just the other night I was telling our son that God does not always give us what we ask for, usually He gives us something better if we just wait on His timing. Although he did not quite understand what I meant, I have planted the seed in his mind. Hopefully the idea of waiting on God’s timing will be a lesson he learns a lot faster than I did.

  2. Sharon says:

    Billy, a wonderful story. And so true to my own life, too. I know what it feels like to *call* on God, and feel like there’s just no answer. But more often than not, I realize that He did indeed answer, but not according to my expectations. All too often, I make Him smaller.

    The One who fed a bunch of folks with some fish and loaves has a way of answering us in bigger and better ways than we expect. We just have to listen – because often the still, small Voice speaks in the quiet moments of life, and happiness is all about His JOY.


  3. Caroline says:

    Lovely, So true. It is always about Him not us. I am having to learn this almost all the time. It reminds me of something I read “Let Him set you up”.
    Been away a while, nice to be back and find you still writing in that beautiful Billy way. God Bless.

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