Monday, December 13, 2010

Does God Really Care Where I Lost My House Keys?

OK, everybody at some time or another has sat through a testimony meeting where someone shares the experience of having lost something small but important, like house keys or car keys or whatever. And then they prayed and asked God for help to find whatever it is they lost, and then sure enough, no sooner than they have finished their prayer, an idea pops into their head and they investigate, and, sure enough, they find the lost item. A miracle! God helped them find their keys!

Now, I've always regarded these stories with a bit of skepticism for a number of reasons. First of all, I've always imagined that in the range of things that the Almighty concerns himself about, finding a set of lost keys can't possibly rate very highly. I mean, my spouse gets peeved at me if, every time I lose something, I ask him, as if he's supposed to keep track of all my little junk. Wouldn't God similarly expect me to organize my personal affairs so that I can keep track of where my keys are?

Second, it presents the same theological problem that every "answered" prayer for some physical, material blessing does. Why would God help me find a pair of keys, but let some child die of an incurable disease?

OK, so I admit I'm a skeptic.

Yet, Saturday, Göran and I were out snowshoeing with a new foreign exchange student who arrived Thursday and will be staying with us until early June of next year. While goofing around and making a snow angel, our student lost his cell phone in the snow. He didn't become aware that he had lost it until about a half-hour or so later after we arrived back at the house.

I felt terrible for him, so I volunteered to run back to the spot where the snow-angel-making activity had occurred and search for the phone. I arrived at the spot, but there was no cell phone in sight. Snow was coming down thick and heavy. I searched everywhere. I even started brushing away snow and digging around in spots where the phone might likely have fallen, to no avail. And after wandering around and digging and searching for several minutes, I was on the verge of admitting defeat and heading back home to deliver the bad news.

But just before leaving, it occurred to me to pray and ask God for help with this.

I know, right?

I mean, even as I was uttering the prayer in my mind, I thought, this can't possibly work. But, wouldn't you know it, no sooner had I calmed my heart, taken a deep breath, and asked for help, than I noticed a little patch of snow that was slightly darker than the snow around it. Just an ever so slightly darker shade of blue. I went straight to the spot and dug. The cell phone was there, it had slid into the snow length-wise and was buried quite deep. Unlikely I ever would have found it just lightly brushing snow away. I had to dig for it. But it was right there, and in perfectly good working condition.

So now my dilemma. Was this just a coincidence? And was it wrong to be grateful for God's help, if this was just a coincidence? Would God just be annoyed by my prayers of thanksgiving for something so trivial? Is it possible that this "miracle" might actually even be a disservice to our young exchange student friend, on the grounds that my success won't teach him to be more careful with his stuff the next time?

I don't know. Truth is, though, I was very thankful. So I uttered a prayer of thanksgiving as I slipped it into the warmth and security of my pocket. And when I got back, Farzad was thankful too. Extremely thankful! He couldn't stop thanking me.

So I'm not sure what the lesson is of this. But if it is possible to make theological sense of something like this, I suppose it is that all things are in God's hands, and I am grateful for all things. And I know that the greatness or triviality of a blessing or a miracle is relative. To a kid who's five thousand miles from home, a cell phone and the capability to stay in touch with mom and dad can be a big deal. And I don't know why things work the way they do. It breaks my heart beyond words to think of children starving and dying, and prayers for them going unanswered. I can't say I understand those things. But I am grateful for the good!


recover and thrive said...

that is awesome!!! prayer totally does work, and I think God does care even about the little things :)

its nice to take those deep breaths and just pray for the little things

alan said...

Not to be negative, but sometimes when people thank God during a testimony for even the big things -- such as a medical procedure going well -- someone out in the pews might have had a similar situation where a family member died due to a lack of health insurance. Very often God is employed to a solipsistic effect without a critical examination of classism, ableism, and all those other -isms.

"He didn't have to lose his leg! Thank God!"
"And what's wrong with having only one leg?" says the one-legged man.

Kiley said...

This post makes me laugh. I had a lot of success praying about lost items. In fact I would say that I after praying I usually found the lost item within 10 minutes.

The god that I always believed in one was an incredibly personal god. He was also the "omni's". If he was omnipresent, or able to be present in every single moment it was totally conceivable that he would have time to help me since time meant nothing to him at all.

Not to mention that I was often told that many blessings simply required the asking.

Beck said...

I love this post! It makes me smile! I've been there, done that, with the same results, and the subsequent same questions.

No answers, but I like the thought process it provokes. Is God really that personal to care? Should I "bother" him with such matters? And what about the more serious matters? And the unanswered requests? Yeah, it never ends... but I love it just the same!

The part that I love best, is the simple pause for thanks and gratitude.

J G-W said...

Alan - You're right... I don't see it as a negative comment at all. The nature of the problem doesn't change if we change the scope. You're quite right.

Kiley and Beck - Thanks for the laughter. It helps to acknowledge the big questions with a little humor -- especially in a situation like this!

The more I think about it, the more apparent it is to me that faith consists in our ability (our willingness?) to see the hand of God in our lives, regardless of whether our prayers are answered in the way we'd like.

Faith affirms that God does care for and empathize with us, and that faith changes things. And how that comes to pass in the specific ups and downs of our lives is a dynamic process...

Sometimes seeking a blessing from God does consist of a simple asking and receiving. Sometimes we have to wrestle angels and demons for the blessings we need.

But I agree with you, and it's why ultimately my response to this situation had to consist simply of gratitude.

J G-W said...

R&T - Thanks, and welcome to my blog! I guess if anything seems true in a situation like this, it is that little things can matter.

Kiley, I suppose you are right to point out that from the viewpoint of eternity nothing must be either big or small...

calibosmom said...

Thanks for sharing this. We had a "found my phone" testimony just last Sunday and I was rolling my eyes yet again. I too am a skeptic and don't understand but am grateful for the little (and big) miracles and blessings from above.

Newt said...

Hi I'm new to your blog, my sis just sent me the link.

I've wondered a lot of the same things about prayer, actually. I've sort of come to the conclusion that prayer calms the mind and senses and we notice things we wouldn't have noticed otherwise. This is not to discount the value of prayer in our lives, actually the opposite, to recognize it as a very powerful tool in times of crisis and uncertainty.