Thursday, March 1, 2018

Looking For the Lost Key(s)

I was stuck in a rut, and God brought me out of it with a case of beer.

That thought just makes me smile.

It wasn't my beer, and I didn't even get to drink any of it. And I'm still smiling despite those facts.

A middle-aged man was waiting in my line at the grocery store to buy it, when the younger customer in line ahead of him saw it on the belt and made a comment about it. A few jokes were exchanged, a laugh or two...and just like that, the two men were deep into a conversation that moved from alcohol consumption to work histories to job opportunities in record time (maybe because they were in the “express” lane? LOL). I rang up their orders, ran their credit card payments through and handed them their receipts without interjecting a word. So engrossed were they still in what they were saying that they walked out to the lobby, leaving the case of beer that started it all sitting on the belt at the end of the register! Hailed by the hollers of those nearby, the man retrieved his beer with a shake of his head and then returned to the conversation that continued for several more minutes. Finally there was a handshake, an exchange of phone numbers, and both men exited the store and went on about their business.

A few minutes later, the beer-buying man was back.

“I must've left my keys here,” he said to me. “I can't find them.”

I hadn't seen them and told him so, but I stopped scanning groceries for a minute as we both looked around the register and down on the floor where they might have dropped. I told him to check at the customer service desk in case they'd been turned in and he went off to do so. Minutes later her was back again, and by now he had a couple of customers interested in the situation and involved in the search. Shaking off their suggestions as to where he might have left them, he said, “I know I had them at the register, because I dropped them and made a comment about it when I picked them up. I was sure I put them in my pocket, but they're not there.” Since there was no sign of them anywhere in the store, he went back outside to look some more and ponder his options.

When he came up to me a third time, I wasn't expecting to hear good news. But he was smiling, and pointing to a large lump at the base of his pant-leg, just above his boot.

“I found my keys!” he beamed. Apparently a hole in the pocket of his flannel-lined jeans had allowed them to slide all the way down his pant leg inside the lining to the very bottom. While he was relieved to know where they were, he still needed to find a way to get to them. Was there a place where he could take off his pants and shake the keys back down the other way?! I directed him to the men's restroom, and after a LONG time he exited the store a final time, smiling big and waving his keys at me as he held them high over his head.

Maybe the story mattered to me only because when you scan groceries for a living, the real-life dramas of the people standing before you are much more interesting than the items coming in a steady stream down the belt. But in this case I think it was something more.

I hadn't written a word in months. At first it was the rush and crush of the holiday season that kept my hands busy and away from the computer keyboard for weeks at a time. Then the new year brought with it new hours at work that stole away my morning typing time and forced me to find a new time slot in my day in which to schedule it in. But even once I had adjusted to that, I realized that the problem wasn't so much “no time to write” as much as it was “nothing to say”. And that was an issue I couldn't seem to do anything about. Missing the stories that seemed to pop up so steadily around me with messages attached, I didn't want to believe the voice in my head that said that part of my life was over. Desperately I clung to an entry I'd made in a journal a few years ago: “I have a story to write. I just don't know what it is yet.”

What if the episode with the keys was to tell me that what I thought I'd lost was really still with me; I just needed to get to a place where I could shake it loose? Suddenly hope filled my heart...and whoosh! Just like that, the dam broke, the words flowed, and my writing garden was watered once more.

Maybe you have lost something infinitely more precious to you than a mere set of keys. It could be the health you took for granted... a love you treasured... your financial security, perhaps. Try as you might, you have been unable to get your life back on track in that regard. Fearing that what you had is lost to you forever, you are now on the verge of despair. Could it be that we are really all looking for the exact same thing? ...the key to moving God's hand, unlocking the door, and giving us the answers we seek? Maybe God wants you to know that what you are missing has been with you the whole time; it is just momentarily inaccessible. Give the situation some time and space and patiently wait for Him to place it in your waiting hands. It may take a while and there may still be a lot of work involved, but it will come.

God responds to our pleas for help with what we need instead... an outpouring of hope...and suddenly anything is possible...the answer is probable... and what we've seemingly lost is patiently waiting to be reclaimed.

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint.”
(Isaiah 40:31 KJV)

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