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!