It was an ordinary day, like any other Saturday, I promise you. Well, except for the fact that it was 60 something degrees on a Saturday in the month of January, but other than that minor detail, in every other respect, just an ordinary Saturday. At least that’s how it started out. I decided to go for a walk before tackling my “to do” list because I wanted to take advantage of this gift of such unexpectedly warm weather at this time of the year.
Now walking is one of my favorite things to do. Its free, it relaxes me, helps to prepare and energize me for the day ahead or allows me to unwind and think about whatever it is that needs contemplating at day’s end. So I often walk around my neighborhood on the sidewalks or on the paths on the golf course not in use at the moment. Today was no different, I took one of my usual routes which took me onto the golf course and a little bit closer to nature as there are woods and water with bridges connecting one side to the other. Plenty of ducks and geese frequent these ponds as well as the occasional heron, bullfrogs, and the elusive muskrat, so there is plenty to watch as I walk, if I am not too deep in thought to notice.
I was walking at a pretty good pace as I stepped onto the wooden bridge from the concrete path. The wood was wet from the recent rain and without warning I slipped, throwing my arms out as I reacted in order to keep my balance. As I did so, my house key flew from my hand into the water before I even knew it was happening. My cell phone was also clutched in that same hand, I had been holding them together as I walked. So this could have been a repeat of an earlier incident in my life, “cell phone two, lost again to water”. But that was not the case.
However, I still had a very real and immediate problem, how to get into my house without my key or how to find my now submerged key. Either was going to be a challenge. What to do? All the if onlys flooded my thoughts first. If only I had a key pad entry on my garage, I could just press in the numbers and I’d be able to get in. But I don’t. If only I’d left a spare key with one of my neighbors, but I hadn’t. If only my keys (and phone) had been in my pocket instead of my hand, but they weren’t. If only I’d been wearing gloves, but I didn’t think I needed them today. If only I kept a spare key on my front porch or around my house somewhere, but I don’t. If only I’d taken to the sidewalk as I had considered doing as I exited one part of the golf course, because I thought the next section might have parts of the path under water, but I didn’t. I had decided to chance it and see if I could get through.
So the reality of my situation slowly began to sink in. ( much more slowly I might add than the split second it took my key to sink and vanish from sight) Now questions ran rampant through my mind. Triple A can break into my car for me, could they break into my house for me as well? Who do you call to break into your house for you? (criminals R us?) Were any of my neighbors home at the moment? And even if they were, what could they possibly do? Did I want to break a window? (that would be an expensive replacement) I decided I would get my very tall rain boots and return to the scene of my mishap to wade in and search for my key. (after all it wasn’t that cold) This seemed like a satisfactory plan, inconveniencing no one, until I realized I would need my lost key to get into my house in order to get my rain boots. So back to square one.
My ordinary, well planned day had just taken an unexpected turn. I take such pains to protect myself from so many things, and yet here I was. I hadn’t planned for this, nor planned how to prevent it. I didn’t see it coming. I was reminded once again that the things I worry about often never happen and things I don’t worry about do. Only a week ago I had spent two days worrying about a predicted ice storm that was going to be in full force when I needed to be at the airport picking up my daughter and son in law. I watched the weather expectantly, making all kinds of contingency plans in my head, but as midnight approached not a drop was falling. There was no weather issue at all.
But today I had an issue and it needed a solution. I knocked on my neighbor’s door. (fortunately I had walked mid-morning and not at my usual quite early hour, or I would have had the additional problem of it being too early to bother anyone) These particular neighbors are good friends as well as kind and compassionate people, so I hoped my embarrassment in my current predicament would be minimized at least. (imagine having to explain this to strangers) I asked to borrow boots, explaining my situation. What I received in addition to the boots was a huge chunk of metal, which was a magnate fastened by duck tape to a long cord. (duck tape is always involved in problem solving in some capacity) My hopes soared, this would surely do the trick. I hiked back over to the bridge and set to work. I could “fish” from the bridge so I didn’t even need the boots.
I was pretty sure I knew where the key had entered the water, well kind of sure, it happened so fast. My solitary key was attached via key ring to a small circular piece of leather I had had since college, with a rose design now faded and worn but still visible. This circle of leather actually has a lot of sentimental value to me; it is special but it’s the key that is necessary. This brown leather circle would blend in perfectly with the wet brown leaves that blanketed the bottom of the pond where it was shallow enough to see the bottom, that is. I looked first and saw nothing and so began to fish for my hidden house key. At first I lowered the large magnate carefully from the bridge until it touched bottom, let it rest there a moment, then pulled it carefully up. I didn’t want to muddy up the water or to push my key further into the mud and leaves at the bottom.
Each time I hauled the magnate from the water I firmly believed my key would be attached. My eyes were glued to the magnate each time it came up out of the water. I held my breath in expectation, already filled with gratitude and relief. And each time it came up empty, my anticipation turned to disappointment. I would second guess where indeed my key had entered the water, recalculate and try again. Feeling frustrated after some time had passed with many failed attempts, I broadened my search area. I cast the magnate a bit further from the bridge and began to drag it along the bottom as well. This made the water really murky but I had to try something different. I brought up a few nails, a bolt and lots of leaves each time, but no key.
I was getting discouraged but I knew my key was down there somewhere. I had watched it and heard it as it entered the water. I needed it back! I even tried the other side of the bridge, thinking of Jesus’s advice to Peter to put the fishing nets on the other side of the boat. But there was no current and I didn’t think the key would have moved much. So I started over, working the area again where I thought my key should be. By now I was just going through the motions. Lowering, dragging, retrieving, removing leaves and lowering again.
My disappointment was turning to despair with each failed attempt. I wasn’t really looking as the magnate broke the surface of the water each time now, because I was no longer expecting the key to be attached. Still, I persisted in fishing for my key while considering, what next? I had tried deeper, going as far as the middle of the bridge and further out from the bridge, though I believed my key was both closer to the bridge and to the bank. So I decided to put on the boots and go wading so that I could search with my hands.
As I pulled the magnate up yet again, I reached out to catch it and remove the leaves, while looking at the bank, planning my point of entry. When I actually looked at the magnate, it took me more than a moment it seemed to realize that I was looking at my key and leather circle! I had quit expecting to see them how many throws into the water ago? I couldn’t say exactly when my many disappointments had turned my certain expectation into something else., into resignation? into hopelessness? Was it on the 15th try? the 50th? or the 150th? I couldn’t tell you.
But I can tell you that even though I was feeling resigned and hopeless, I continued to “fish” for my key, I did not stop. Now feeling relief, joy and gratitude I hurried back to my neighbors to return their things and share with them my good news. What was lost is now found. That’s the miracle. or is it?
Or is the real miracle God’s reminder to me that He never gives up on me or on anyone? Therefore I should never give up on myself and neither should you, dear reader, ever give up on yourself. God doesn’t. God reminded me while I was “fishing” that I need to persist even when my feelings tell me otherwise. We all need to be encouraged to “keep on keeping on”. I’m glad I did. I’m glad I didn’t stop untill I found my key.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1Cor. 2:9)
“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:12)
sincerely, Grace Day