This week I had an experience that leaves me in awe at the One who orchestrates my life. I couldn't dream this stuff up or try really hard to suck a good lesson out of a bad turn. This is the real thing.
On Wednesday afternoon, my daughter went outside to ride her bike. We bought this pink Disney princess bike in the early spring at a thrift shop in town, and though she had never ridden before, it quickly became one of her delights. She could take herself places! Her friend down the street has a purple Disney princess bike, and riding together was how they came to be friends.
But Wednesday, her bike was nowhere to be found. Not on our porch, not in the yard, not left on the sidewalk or in front of a neighbor's house. I knew she had ridden it the day before, and I know she has an excellent memory and thrives on the routine of putting things like this back roughly where they belong. We looked at her friend's house down the street; did she leave it there and they tucked it onto their porch? No. I asked the neighbor boy who was mowing their lawn, Did you see Felicity's bike from when she was here yesterday? No. It was nowhere. After I pronounced the sad conclusion to my daughter that someone obviously took it, I found her with her head sadly hanging down, crying her little eyes out.
I held her, and I cried too. But along with my tears I became very angry.
I took a whole hour to calm down (we had a previous engagement which we followed through on, though we were late) and then to select printable language before posting on Facebook the question: What kind of a shameless SOB steals a little girl's bicycle?
Truth be told, I did not realize until this morning how much of a impact this event had on my soul. I was ripping mad at the selfish whim of whomever it was who didn't care about the tears and heartbreak of a 5-year-old. Even if a girl young enough to ride it was walking through the neighborhood without someone with the brains to tell her not to walk off with other people's things, surely eventually an adult would notice the acquisition and demand it be returned to its rightful owner. That's simply justice. Everyone understands you don't steal from children. Right? Then why the &%$(! did this happen?!
Compounding matters of course is the fact that my husband is still out of a job and we are pinching our pennies tighter than this penny-pincher ever has before. Simply going down to WalMart and buying a new one was right out of the question. That's reality, and that's fine. But it sure added to the sting.
I had been bearing up under the stress of unemployment acceptably well. We've had some set backs and unforeseen expenses during this time, but at this point in my life I'd be an idiot if I doubted God's constant presence and fully loving, aware concern for every need we have. But to be honest, after this bike episode I began to lose it. I tend to lose it rather quietly and internally, and the soft spot for the enemy attack has to do with very basic drives for staying alive, for example, the desire for food and water. I simply lose interest. And after the weight of this bike episode sank into me, I quickly began to suffer the physical consequences.
I'm saying all this from hindsight, because the episode is now resolved. But I did also quickly rally to address those physical consequences. So I was feeling pretty good physically, when last night, as I was bringing my daughter downstairs from her bath, I was shocked to see her bicycle laying on our lawn. We both saw it together, we were both shocked together, and her bed time was shot as she was now far too excited to lay down. I thought of what my husband had said: Let's give it a few days. Maybe it will turn up.
Yeah, right. This morning I couldn't help but think of a song our choir sang at Easter time with the line: "The dead do not rise." Isn't this exactly what the disciples thought? What any sane person would think? Why hope? Why delude yourself with vain dreams of things working out? Either get cynical or get crushed: The dead do not rise, and little girls do not have things restored to them that were stolen.
Ok, take a deep breath and dive down into this with me. But first let me tell you what happened with the bike. My daughter had gone to the next-door neighbor's house on Tuesday and they decided to play dolls with it inside the house. This neighbor girl is nearly 10 and had no problem bringing the bike in, but apparently Felicity forgot all about it when she came back home. Even though I'd inquired with that neighbor, no one thought to check inside the basement, where they'd taken it. My son then returned it, muddy from his transport, and left it sprawled out on the lawn, looking like it had been dumped. He told me all about this a few hours after we discovered it.
Let me tell you something else. A year ago, if the bike would have disappeared without a trace, I would have been incapable of the type of anger I felt Wednesday. I would have thought things like "easy come, easy go" or "well, it's only a bike" or "I'm sure whoever took it had some reason, some problem to explain why." I wouldn't have been able to look at my daughter's tears and simply say "This is wrong! Stealing from children is wrong!"
But last year, crescendoing in the fall, I experienced something else that had a profound impact on me. God reached down into my heart, into an area in my heart that had gotten locked away until He found a particular person to whom He could give the key. The key had to be in a musical shape, and in that part of my heart I confronted many things I had lost, had thought were stolen from me, had thought were dead, never to rise again. My father figured largely into all of that, his presence, his meaning in my life. There are many parallels there to a bike that was missing, but not stolen. But even deeper than all that I found locked away another piece of my own humanity. In the bedrock of my soul God corrected me, and healed in me, a sense of justice toward myself. He taught me that it is no longer acceptable for me to think: "It's only me. It doesn't matter."
And this bike episode has taught me that the change in me is real, solid, complete.
I have spent a couple hours this morning with eyes wet with tears of joy. I'm grateful to have had this test case that in the end was nothing more than a misunderstanding. I'm grateful that God once again shows Himself as the faithful orchestrator of reality that is more complicated than fiction. I'm grateful for the "fire drill" that teaches me again to be vigilant about caring for my own physical needs. I'm grateful for the people God gives me to show His face and sound His voice.
As a friend said last night: Life is good. God is great.