I’ll admit it up front. I’ve been struggling with what a friend of mine would call a “stank” attitude. Angry (at God mostly) that things aren’t the way I want them, either with my special needs child or certain health issues of my own. Losing a friend way too young to cancer isn’t helping my outlook. Neither is losing sleep multiple nights due to unexplained disturbances in my son’s sleep.
I’ve been trying to cultivate more awareness of blessing in my life. Trying to remember to say “thank you” for the people and resources without which I would be well and truly hosed. I’m amazed at how fragile my attempts at daily gratitude have proven. It doesn’t take much to rip my eyes away from provisions and fasten them onto problems. And although I will never be able to understand why a good Creator would allow chaos and death to wreak such havoc upon his creation, that doesn’t meant I don’t hold each and every offense my mind apprehends against him. (As if I had any right to judge. I forgot to brush my kid’s teeth before getting him off to school this morning. Who am I to keep track of right and wrong on a cosmic scale?)
Life trots along despite our inner conflicts, however, and I found myself pulling up in front of a furniture store in search of a new bed for my boy. Because he has a habit of bringing his favorite toys and books into his sleeping space we needed to upgrade from his junior-sized mattress to a real twin. Just before stepping out of the car, I paused, remembering the wonderful salesperson who had helped me the last time I had frequented the store for another purchase. Although it had been a couple years, I found myself praying, “God, let that nice lady be the one to help me again today.” I tossed that petition up like one would an imaginary pizza—not really expecting anything of substance to come back down.
I walked into the store and headed toward the customer service center. As I did, a dark-haired individual peeled away from the counter and strode purposefully towards me, hand outstretched in greeting. As I grasped the woman’s hand and looked into her face, I immediately recognized her as The One. Glancing at the cross pin nestled on her lapel, I took a chance, explaining that we had met before, adding, “You know, I was just outside praying that it would be you today who helped me.”
For the barest instant time stood still as the woman looked me in the eye and pulled me over to the side where we could confer in private. With a tremor in her voice she shared that she, too, had prayed before entering the store that day, Specifically, she had asked God to send just the right person to confirm that he was aware of her circumstances and active in the midst of them. That though she was struggling, she was exactly where she needed to be for him to move on her behalf. Then I strode in with my story and suddenly two little fires of faith that had been dwindling in the rain got rekindled by a still, small breath.
Needless to say, super saleslady found me a bed I felt sure would work for my son. Turns out she has a special needs child in her family as well, so she could engage me not only with empathy but understanding. I was in and out of the store within a half hour, grateful that my task was completed and a bit stunned by how an ordinary situation had suddenly become extraordinary.
Had God really orchestrated that meeting? Put it in my mind to come to that place at precisely that time, when another seeking soul was scheduled to take the next customer? I hadn’t felt anything special moving me toward the store that afternoon. Moving me to pray so absent-mindedly before entering. I had just let the day carry me along, like a leaf fallen into a stream. Perhaps we are most strongly guided by supernatural forces when we are least aware of them and can’t interfere with their underlying purpose.
Later on, as I sat through a service at church, I analyzed my feelings more closely. Sadly, as songs of resurrection and victory rose in the sanctuary, I discovered (much to my dismay) that I was still upset inside. The serendipitous meeting with the saleslady hadn’t swept away all my doubts about God nor resolved my grievances against him. What it had done was allow me to feel very safe during that half hour, confident that the steps I was taking would lead to a good end. So, no, I wasn’t overjoyed after my shopping trip. But I was a bit more secure. A bit more willing to trust in what my heart intuits over what my eyes, so often tired and troubled, may see.
Today I’m betting on the chance that a God who arranges small but significant meetings knows me better than I know myself. Knows that sometimes what I really need in my heart is a deposit of safety and security, of that elusive sense of well being, rather than some sweeping revelation. Friends are like that. They stick close when we are “stanky” and give us what we need, not always what we demand.
This is something I would like to explore further in the days ahead. What friendship—both the giving and receiving of it—might look like as we push through grim and grueling seasons. I expect important insights may unfold on a small scale, in the shallows of my life-stream where I’m still able to grasp them when I’m not at my best. That’s where I’ll be on the lookout, in any case. I’ll keep you posted.