For as long as I can remember, I have been obsessed with looking for things. Even as a preschool child, I could not sleep until I found my toy or doll, or whatever item I had left behind in my childish carelessness. As an adult, I still have to search for something exhaustively. Truth is, I’m pretty good at finding things, which just fuels my ridiculous mania to look and look and look.
My first memory of such behavior was when I was about four years old. I finally received the coveted “Gentle Ben” stuffed bear from the popular TV show for Christmas. I had admired him in the window of the store for weeks, and I just knew he would make my world complete. Gentle Ben did not disappoint. His soft black fur, wiggly eyes, and red felt tongue made me swoon. He even had a pull string which allowed him to say phrases from the show. I was on Cloud 9 that Christmas Eve. The next day we went to my Grandma’s house for lunch and my brother and sister and I played in the front yard before we ate. When mom called us in for lunch, I grabbed Gentle Ben and started inside. To my horror, I looked down and saw that something was missing from the tip of Ben’s muzzle! All that was left was a dried glue spot. I stopped in my tracks and headed back outside. (Of course, mom snatched me up and convinced me to eat first, but I only choked down the minimum required amount so I could retrace my steps outside.) After what seemed like hours combing meticulously through my Grandma’s front lawn, I found the black plastic nose. That day sealed my fate as a life-long looker.
So throughout my life, I have tended to believe that my own persistence and intention result in found objects. I thought if I only searched hard enough, and long enough, and smart enough, I could find anything. The rare times that I didn’t find the item, I was distraught and felt like a failure. And sometimes I was mad at God for not helping me. And for years, I made mental note to ask God about these items when I got to heaven so I could finally know where they ended up.
But lately life has taught me that sometimes things happen. Sometimes we don’t like it and no amount of looking or doing can fix it. And I have often wondered why. These days, rather than looking for things (which I still do my fair share of), I am more concerned with looking for blessings. As I have sought those blessings or answers as an adult, I have started to question the meaning of “blessing.” Sure, I know how to look, but perhaps I’ve been searching for the wrong thing.
Laura Story is still waiting for complete healing from her husband’s debilitating brain tumor discovered 12 years ago. In the lyrics to her song “Blessings,” she concludes that we may have incorrectly defined “blessings.” Rather than being health or prosperity or whatever it is we are praying for, perhaps the blessing is that God gives us what we need, rather than what we ask for.
We are easily distracted and self-absorbed. And we feign independence and self-sufficiency, shutting God out until we get desperate. But God has a way of fitting the pieces together, regardless of the mess we’ve made of things. So these lost things just might be God reaching back from Heaven to break through our superdome of pride. The lost things may be the blessing we need, rather than the one we want.
Since being diagnosed with heart failure, I have prayed for all of this to go away. I have prayed to have my energy back, my security back, my identity back. I have prayed to be the mom my kids remember before they left for college. But I may never get the answers I’m wanting. Faith is about trusting what we cannot see, and I am choosing to not focus on the things I’ve lost. Rather, to trust that the God who loves me beyond reason has a different blessing in mind.
If I’m being honest, I never really looked carefully at Gentle Ben’s nose before it was lost. Sure, it was there, but it didn’t stand out until it was missing. I imagined it to be a soft pompom instead of the hard, plastic, realistic one that I eventually found. I didn’t really know what I was searching for. I just knew I needed to find it. So all that time in my Grandma’s front yard that Christmas Day, missing Christmas dinner with my family, may have been avoided…. if only I had been looking for the right thing.