Losing and Finding

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It has happened twice in twenty years. Twice. The first time was in Florence, Italy, on a 30th Anniversary trip with my husband. We were tired, trying to find a legal parking space for our rented car, and then staggering uphill, in an unfamiliar place, searching for a Rick Steves’ suggested hotel amid the confusion of not one, not two, but three different ways of numbering buildings.

And then, my foot caught on the edge of a cobblestone and down I went. Hard. My left hand went flying, landing topside down. I could feel the swelling begin as I struggled to regain an upright posture and my dignity. As I looked down to check on the swelling—by now, a golf-ball-sized goose egg—I saw that the diamond anchoring my wedding ring set was not there. 

I shouted through the milling crowd of tourists to my husband, alerting him to this gaping absence, and he began to use his arms to move people out of the way. I pointed to my empty ring socket and visibly wept. Everyone began to search the ground around us.  A German tourist—complete with Bermuda shorts, dark socks, and an American baseball cap, with a camera and binoculars around his neck—spotted something gleaming on the edge of an embossed street grate, open to the sewer below. Calmly, this kind gentleman bent over and retrieved my diamond, handing it to me with a bow.

Lost. And found.

And then again, last week, two weeks shy of anniversary #54, I was going about business-as-usual. You know the kind of day I mean: a doctor’s appointment, meals to plan, errands to run. I picked up a few groceries and got gas for my car, where I reached through the steering wheel to re-set the mileage button and accidentally hit my hand on the steering wheel. Hard. Just as I began to accelerate out of the pump area, I thought I saw something shiny right at the edge of my back-up screen on the dashboard.

I reached over to see what it was, and realized—you guessed it—the diamond was no longer in my wedding ring. And I began to gulp-cry. Are you at all familiar with that strange sound we humans can sometimes make? It had been a hellacious few weeks. My husband had two visits to urgent care—once for a pinched nerve in his back, and the second time with the worst cough I have ever heard in my life, which was eventually diagnosed as pneumonia. At the same time, they discovered a heart abnormality in this previously 100% heart-healthy man. The vicissitudes of aging had never felt so real or so personal, yet I pushed my way through the worry and the care-taking, and the demands of my return to work after almost a decade of retirement, doing my usual take-charge, get-her-done, this-will-not-defeat-me thing.

Somehow, my missing diamond summed up all of that anxiety, and the tears I had held inside for almost two months poured out of me.

In the 90 seconds it took me to drive from the gas pump to a parking place, that shiny thing on the dashboard disappeared. I drove home, and enlisted my ailing husband’s help in searching through every inch of the dashboard area.

Nothing.

Even the guy at the Honda dealership couldn’t find it. BUT, he did say that if I was willing to pay for the labor involved, and bring the car back the next day, they could completely dismantle the entire dashboard and search behind it, looking for that painfully absent bit of sparkle and shine. And that is exactly what they did. That .44-carat stone had managed to slide its way behind the speedometer of my car and the technician found it after about two hours of looking. Amazing.

Lost. And found.

AGAIN.

And that, my dear friends, sums up life as we know it. These two lost-and-found stories provide powerful metaphors for what the season of Advent is really about, don’t they? Because, in the scheme of things, we human creatures are pretty dang small. And yet, we are also capable of so much sparkle and shine! And we are immensely, intensely valuable to the One who formed us, the One who continues to come looking for us, the one who will pay any price to find us and clean us up and put us in the best possible light to spread that shine and sparkle around.

Yes, there are days when I feel more than a little bit lost—like I’ve been knocked loose from all that is familiar and secure. There are other times when I plain don’t want to be shiny and seen, when I’d rather hide myself away in a dark corner and let the world walk on by.

But here’s the thing I need to remember: I am never out of God’s sight. Never. Like that strange German tourist, or the kindly technician at the Honda place, God knows exactly where I am hiding. And God comes looking, plucking me out of the crevices and corners, and says, “Well, here you are! I am so glad to see you. Welcome to your life, kiddo. There’s this space that only you can fill, dear one. Now, get out there. And remember, I’m right here with you. So go shine!”

 

 

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