Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What if you lost everything--and got it back?

Can anyone help me out here? I saw a powerful quote on one of those church message boards a few weeks ago, and with my Swiss-cheese-like memory, I can't quite remember how it goes. But the point of it was this: You know all that stuff you're worried about right now? All that stuff that drives you crazy? Your kids, your job, your car? What if you lost all of it--then got it back? How would you feel about it then?

I already thought this was a pretty profound way of saying that we shouldn't take things for granted. Something we all know, but need to be reminded of. And then I recently got a real-life example of how this idea works through a harrowing experience of a close friend.

This friend lost her job awhile back and had to sell her house for financial reasons. She ended up moving in with her sister in another state while she's trying to get back on her feet, so almost everything she owns is in a storage facility here in Georgia. That in itself has been pretty depressing to deal with as the months drag on. Just think, when the seasons change and you'd like that coat--oops! It's in storage. Suddenly have an urge to sew? The machine is in storage. That book you'd like to re-read? Well, you get the point.

And other things haven't been going well. There are health issues. There was a car accident. The new job is extremely stressful, and another layoff is possible. So my friend's nerves were nearly at the breaking point.

And then came the horrible letter. It was from the management of her storage facility, telling her there had been a break-in, and that they hadn't been able to reach her by phone when it happened. They told her the police had come out and taken extensive pictures and were working on the case.

Frantic, she tried calling the management, but naturally they were closed for the evening. She called the phone number they had provided for the police and spoke to someone who wasn't actively involved in the case, but who told her that if they had sent someone out to take pictures of a storage facility break-in, that usually meant one thing. Everything was gone. Sometimes, it seems, thieves simply take a truck to a storage facility, load everything into it, and worry about sorting through it later.

Everything was gone. Bear in mind, for my friend this meant more than furniture and sewing machines and clothes. She lost her parents when she was a teenager, and all the photos of them would be gone. A fellow writer, she had hand-written and type-written manuscripts from pre-computer days that she would never be able to duplicate. All gone.

Or so it seemed.

She was devastated. She could hardly speak or breathe when I talked to her that evening. Then I called her the next morning, after the storage facility in Georgia had opened and she was able to talk to someone. Now she heard the incredible news: nothing was missing! Yes, there had been a break-in, and some of her knitting yarn had been scattered on the ground, but it appeared that everything else was intact.

Suddenly, her situation was just the same as it had been a couple of days before, with health issues and job stresses and all the rest. And yet, everything was different. She had her photos and memories, and her manuscripts. Things she had taken for granted, but that now brought her such joy. Just by going through this with my friend, I felt more grateful for everything God had blessed me with and allowed me to keep.

I'm sure life is still hard for my friend, and it will be hard to hold onto that moment of joy. I know it's hard for me not to slip back into ingratitude and whining.

But wouldn't it be wonderful if we could all live as if we had lost everything, and gotten it back?

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