Sometimes our God simply astounds me. I am not talking about what most people would think of as one of His more dazzling works. There are just tons of things that come along, little things, not to say petty, that in the grand scheme of God’s master plan, in themselves don’t amount to spit. But given the right context, the right spirit, the right time and purpose, our God uses insignificant things to accomplish monumental personal effects.
Take for example what the Lord did for Olsie and me this last Tuesday (July 12). This I want to share so that our benefit might also be yours as you too labor in prayer, yet sometimes timidly or reluctantly, fearing perhaps that your petitions may be too piddling to merit His divine interest. Friends, never underestimate His concern for the little things that affect you, a child of God. All of life, even the small stuff, is for God a laboratory where He tests, proves and polishes our faith and walk with Him.
In our case, it was nothing earth-shaking, mind you. But at the end of the day it was still another trumpet-sounding, faith-stirring moment of God’s fatherly care, spiritual nurture and a powerful stimulation of our perhaps stagnant faith.
On a Saturday morning a few weeks back we as usual were at the church office. Out her window Olsie noticed one of our senior couples on the far side of our church property slaving away with a chain saw and a wood chipper, clearing out and heaping up a tangled nest of small, shruffy trees and gnarly shrubs located to the side of Parkview. Like worker bees, they had piled up a considerable stack of dead and living vegetative debris, sawing off, piling up and chipping away like carpenter ants.
Just thrilled to see that ugly mess being cleared out, Olsie, mindless that she was still in her relatively good clothes and shoes, dashed out of her office like gang busters to see if she could assist. Shortly she was involved up to her elbows, sweaty and soiled up to her eyeballs. Diving right in, in short order a vagrant branch out of nowhere harshly flicked her right ear lobe with a stroke of painful violence. But, hey, enthused about the work, no harm, no foul.
Except there was a little unnoticed ‘damage’ after all. Unbeknownst to Olsie at the time, that branch had separated from her ear one of Olsie’s favorite earrings, a valued gift a friend had purchased for her at a spendy little shop in Cannon Beach. The loss however did not come to her attention until after the job was finished and we were having lunch with Del and Jane (the hard working couple I mentioned above). Jane happened to notice an earring gone missing. Aw, nuts.
Sure enough. And the bad news was that the probability of finding it was virtually nil. In all likelihood when that tree limb ripped it from her ear lobe, swatting it aimlessly into all that pile of stuff, branches, sticks, briars, dry leaves and who knows what, it could have landed anywhere, including the mouth of the chipper. Finding it would be a fool’s errand. Still, later that afternoon Olsie did go back to the spot to do a surface scan, just in case she got lucky and it turned up unmolested.
Now let’s get this in perspective. We are not talking here about losing something really important. Like a child, for example. Or a home or a job or a pay check or a credit card or your driver’s license and social security information, etc. By comparison this earring loss was trivial, to say the least. Nothing to lose sleep over. It would not break the bank to replace, still it was her favorite because it was so simple yet elegant and flexible, coming with quite a number of sparkling dohickees that she could easily change out according to her colors that day.
OK, no big deal in a serious world. But I myself wanted to recover it since for one thing, I just like to please her and two, she herself will do so little to please herself. I knew she was unlikely to spend even $30-40 for a replacement. So every other day since, I resolved to stride out to the scene of the accident and with my trusty eagle eye, wet or dry, see if I might spot it. Except I kept forgetting. By this week it had been at least three weeks, not to mention unhelpful rains and foot traffic of humans and dogs.
Then Tuesday my memory caught up with my mind. So as I lit out for my daily walk around the church block, I detoured for a search (but not too hopefully). But right off I could see it was a rather futile exercise. Light debris and mulch blanketed a fairly decent space. Immediately I complained to myself that a person would need a jewelry-sniffing dog to locate something so small as that even if by chance it escaped the chipper and was still hiding there somewhere.
Anyway, I’m there and I may as well get serious. So with my foot as my paddle, so to speak, I started stirring and parting the waters, first up this way, then down that way, then around to the east side, then the west side, eagle eyes on high beam, randomly kicking mulchy stuff first this way, then that, punching and punting little mounds of chips and mulch, and clumps of softened dirt, hoping just maybe to surface that earring. Passersby probably thought that man was looney tunes. After about 10-15 minutes of fully anticipated futility, I finally said, “Oh, heck, enough of that. Let’s get on with the walk.”
About 25 minutes later as I was circling back, I pondered taking one more stab at it.
You know, after so many years walking with God and being tutored in His school of prayer, I have discovered and the Scriptures confirm that Heaven is never insulted if God’s trusting people dare to trust the caring heart of God and bring our small matters as well as our big issues to the Throne of Grace. Especially when those prayers provide the Lord a convenient and seasonable showcase for whatever He wants to teach us and however he wants to mold us for His service.
So, about 100 yards from the site I just felt prompted this time around to pray about recovering that little item. My petition went something along these lines:
“Heavenly Father, I know it’s just a small deal. Nothing of great consequence hangs in the balance here. Yet I remember You are the same God who was there, when I was just a little boy and came to my dad crying because I had lost my Boy Scout knife, my favorite gift that day. Kneeling down beside dad in his bedroom, he prayed that You would help us find the knife. And within five minutes not far from our house, we discovered it in the grass. Father, you know what a lifelong imprint that experience in prayer registered in my mind. So, Father, I know you care about little things too. Heavenly Father, you know Olsie. She gives so much and asks for so little for herself. Father, it would knock her socks off if You helped me find that earring for her. And I personally would take that favor as a reaffirmation of your good hand upon me. If you agree that would be good and timely for me, please do so. Not my will, but yours be done.”
Arriving on the site just a few steps later, I resumed my quest. Just as before, I vainly kicked around the mulch this way and that for about 10 more minutes when at last I said to myself, “Well, I guess it is not what the Lord wills this time.” Even as I was speaking to myself, I booted another small mound of mulch and dirt laying near my right foot and . . . . Oh, my gosh, right there! Right there is was! Amazing! Sticking out, as my uncle once wrote, like an orange soup bean in a black cat’s bottom. Laying there as if it had been begging for three weeks, “Please, someone, pick me up.” Oh, Olsie, I thought, you will never believe this. Almost involuntarily, my heart in an ecstatic whisper spilled out onto my lips:
“Thank you, Lord! Thank you so much! Praise Your Great Name. I rejoice! Man, just wait ‘til Olsie sees this.”
Picking up the earring like a big eagle scooping up his prey, I hustled across the front lawn, shot into the office area and straight down the hall to Olsie’s office. There I found her engrossed in reading her Bible. Before she had time to look up, I tossed that lonely silver earring on her desk. The startled look on her face was priceless. Never will I forget it.
“Jimmy, how did you find that?!” she exclaimed, seeming instantly to perceive this was no accident. “The Lord!” I answered. “It’s time to head out. I will tell you on the way (to an appointment).”
Olsie was beaming like a crystal. By now her pure joy far transcended the mundane recovery of a trivial piece of jewelry. What stunned both of us was the display of God’s great hand in such a small concern. By now the earring was a precious sign, not so much a material substance. It could be lost again tomorrow. It wouldn’t matter. What mattered now was not the finding of mundane jewelry, but the powerful spiritual meaning of its recovery.
Here was for us another sterling exhibition of the glorious ways of our gracious God, a condescending God who like a loving Father stoops to hear even the small cares of His children and, as it suits His purposes, to bring to bear His almighty power in answer to our prayers. He uses little things too.
In this experience, we both could really resonate with the experience of Peter when on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, in obedience to Jesus’ unorthodox fishing instructions, caught a haul of fish that almost swapped their boat. After that Peter’s attention, like ours, was totally refocused. Now it was fully riveted on the supernatural Fisherman. That day Peter grasped his own smallness in relation to Jesus’ greatness; left the fish to helpers while he hit the deck in humble worship.
For us, you see, the great blessing in this was by no means the retrieval of a trivial earring. No, the significant thing was that God used the search as just another window to His glory. I went looking for an earring, but came away with a deeper knowledge of God and His ways. God is never too big to assist us with the small issues. He will in fact set them up and make them platforms to showcase His glory and foundations on which He builds up our trust in Him for everything. That is simply exhilarating.
Over our lifetimes together, the Lord has answered so many of our petitions, some of those recounted in my first book, Polishing God’s Monuments. However, many of our supplications, like yours, He has denied or delayed. That is why I always counsel, when it comes to prayer, be as thankful for His no-s as for His yes-s. Both are for our benefit, whether we can see it or not.
Remember also that this God is not just your pastor’s God. His throne of grace is just as accessible to you, child of God, as to any pastor. He will answer your petitions as readily as ours. Trust Him always in any case. Pray without ceasing. You never know what God will do and when He may do it.