It started out as thatkind of night. Great friend, good food, nice wine, wonderful music, deep conversation – the kind of evening that makes life worthwhile. The kind of evening you smile about days later. Until suddenly it wasn’t. I walked outside to discover an undeniable fact: my car was gone.
Now my car is nothing particularly special. But as any dented fender fan knows, it has come to symbolize a lot of cool things to me. So to have it stolen even after I had carefully parked it under a street light and left it for less than 2 hours – and yes, it’s alarmed – was disheartening to say the least.
My reaction? Not so pretty. I’m not one to scream or carry on and I tend to be very calm during crisis, and this night was no exception. What was different was how I felt internally. Normally, I take life’s road bumps pretty much in stride. God has taught me that. After all, cars are stolen. It’s a sad fact, but no one was injured or killed, no one was being carted off to the hospital. It’s just a car, and a dented one at that, and it’s replaceable. Intellectually I knew all of this. I think I even verbalized it. My friend actually commented about how I have such a good perspective on things. But internally something else was brewing inside of me, something ugly.
Do you ever have those days where you’re going along just fine until there’s that one last thing that happens, that one event, big or small, that instantly erodes you away on the inside? It’s the proverbial straw and you feel your back snapping even as the event unfolds. Well, that’s how having my car stolen felt. By the next day I went from It’s only a car, to Why me? Do I have a cosmic “kick me” sign taped on my back or something?! It’s my dented fender car, for crying out loud. Someone took my symbol of overcoming adversity by giving me MORE adversity. Does the world have a sick sense of humor? Where is God in all of this?! And on and on and on. Ever been there?
Sometimes when we’re emotionally fragile, life’s challenges undo us. Our natural strength and resiliency evaporate leaving us feeling betrayed and alone. We may not even realize we’re in a place that’s fragile until an event hits the exposed nerve we didn’t know was there. But once we see it, man does it hurt! And we end up feeling emotionally raw and reacting to not just an event, but to a fear about bigger picture items in our life. We begin to doubt our worth.
So while I was wrestling all of this out with God, venting and shedding a few tears and wondering why I seem to always get the short end of life’s stick, He was quietly moving behind the scenes, as He’s prone to do, lining things up for me. The emails, the phone calls, the generous offers by more than a few people to borrow their spare cars, the large gift card that showed up in my jacket pocket after church, and care shown by those closest to me who knew I was impacted by this in a greater way than just losing a car would warrant were amazing to me. In the midst of the yuck, all of these people surrounded me showing me the many, many blessings I have in my life. I knew without a doubt I mattered and I was loved.
Isn’t that how it goes? We face challenges, big and small, and sometimes we take our eyes off of our guide, the Holy Spirit, and lose our way. But the people we know and love, sometimes even complete strangers, show up and encourage us, reminding us of something greater outside of the momentary challenge. We’re stretched; we learn and grow; we move forward with greater wisdom and peace, along with the few extra gray hairs, remembering life is so much bigger than our circumstances. We have something so much greater out there waiting for us, something above and beyond what this broken world can offer us. Yet while we’re here, we get to see glimpses of it in the love and compassion we receive from those around us.
Now I’m happy to report the car did reappear, apparently none the worse for wear. So my dented fender has returned to me. But as I was driving around in a very nice, plush rental car for those few days, I was reminded I won’t always be driving in a slightly damaged vehicle. God had better things in store for me. And maybe, just maybe, being reminded once again that I am so much more than my circumstances helps add value to the experience.
So if you find yourself going along in life and your proverbial car gets stolen, remember you’re not alone. And remember that word of encouragement from the guy who drives in your car along with you, Jesus: “I have told you these things so that you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NIV)
For further thought: “So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.” (2 Cor. 4:17-28, MSG) When do you find yourself tempted to give up? Don’t forget look for God’s grace unfolding all around you during these times so you can be encouraged to keep moving forward!