He stomped onto the back deck mad.
Our nineteen-year-old volunteer fireman often loses things, often forgets to take things out of his pockets before starting the washer. In the past couple years, he has gone through four cell phones and three IPods. Now this. I could tell he was thoroughly frustrated with himself in his forgetfulness and wondering what the fire chief would think. Zach’s chronic Attention Deficit Disorder has made his young life hard with impulsivity, absent-mindedness, and many poor decisions. I feel for him.
“Where did you last have it?” I inquired, trying to help him think and feel simultaneously—no easy feat.
“Either in the dried up cattail pond or in the fields around it. That’s probably TWENTY ACRES of land!!!! I’ll never find it!” His face muscles tightened and he threw up his hands in defeat. “I tried looking for it but it’s GONE! I give up!”
“Well, let’s pray about it. God always helps me find things. I think it’s best to just calm your emotions a bit and then look some more. I’ll help you at half time.”
Well, the Packers were ten minutes from kick-off. There was no way I was going to look for this needle in the haystack until half time.
Let’s get real about my parenting style with Zach. I knew it wasn’t the best decision to carry his pager, secured only with a small clip, while running with friends wielding fake machine guns through seven foot cattails and twenty acres of prairie grass. But, telling him his judgment was mildly impaired would have been a tad unwise at the moment since he was already fuming. I could see the warning sign printed on his forehead like a billboard in all capital letters.
I thought it best to let him cool off and think. As painful as it is to let kids suffer a bit, I’ve learned over the years that the right dose of struggling actually helps strengthen kids so they learn how to solve their own problems and learn how to make better choices.
So, I prayed as promised and sat down on the couch, remote in hand. And I didn’t feel guilty for watching the first half of the Packers game. Well, not THAT much. By half time, I was fuming about the horrendous officiating and was good and ready to work off my own steam in a fast hike across twenty acres to look for a tiny black pager in a vast cattail jungle.
I should have brought a machete.
When I got to the pond I realized that my hopes and prayers were maybe a bit over-zealous. “There’s no way we’re going to find this pager in here,” I thought. Oh yes, God is so much smaller than seven foot cattails! Oh me, of such little faith!
I suggested we look on the trails and in the surrounding prairie grass. We turned up nothing and agreed to call off the search.
We walked back to the house and talked. Zach has great difficulty naming his emotions so I helped him.
“Do you feel sad?” I asked.
His boy/man chin started quivering and his lips turned down trying not to cry. I felt like crying too.
“Do you feel like you lose too many things?”
Tears started to trickle. I know his heart. We’ve been in this place too many times.
“It’s OK, Zach. I know it’s hard for you. Are you afraid?”
“Yes,” he began. “I’m afraid of what the fire chief will think because that thing is really expensive.”
“Do you think you are the ONLY person in the history of the fire department to lose a pager?” I asked with a slight smile and a gleam in my eye.
He always responds positively to my dramatic inflection.
“Well, let’s problem solve. First of all, what is the worst PROBABLE outcome from this?”
He’s used to this line of questioning. “I’ll have to pay for a new pager.”
“So, the worst PROBABLE outcome is that you’ll have to buy a new pager and accept this expensive lesson. Well, at least you didn’t crash your car! Now THAT would have been some big bucks!”
His eyes got big as he grasped the perspective change and he smiled again.
“So what’s the lesson learned?” I asked.
“Keep my pager in a zippered or buttoned pocket when I’m running around.”
“Sounds like a good plan.”
He was able to move on peacefully and I sat back down for the second, nail-biting half of the game where Aaron Rogers almost got his eye ripped out in a personal foul. At least the refs called THAT one right!
Fast forward to the next morning.
Fourteen-year-old Nick, was helping lead horses to the far pasture when he yelled, “I found it!” holding up some tiny black thing.
Honestly! Could it be? Yep! The pager. I threw up my arms like a football ref signaling “TOUCHDOWN!” and yelled, “THANK YOU GOD!”
Actually, our lab pup Rose found it while roaming the fields.
When she pounced upon it she probably thought something like, “WOW!
A new toy!
In the field!
Who would have thought?!
And this is better than a squeaker toy!
It actually TALKS to me!”
She brought it to the edge of the field for a chew fest, probably trying to extract the speaker just like she does the squeakers. Knobs were torn off but, unbelievably, the pager still worked. I couldn’t wait to get inside and write a note to Zach from Rose. Nick and I laughed so much as I wrote in Rose-speak that I could hardly keep the marker steady. I signed it “Devil Dog”, her nickname, because she’s always hunting for things to turn into joy—for her at least—like my favorite black heels. It’s hard to be mad at her tenacity.
As I thought about this whole event, I realized how much I relate to the pager—left as lost till found by our Gracious, Tenacious God. Life has chewed me up a bit and I’m missing some pieces but still God uses me, imperfect instrument that I am, for His kingdom cause. And I still speak. I still speak when the devils of this world try to eviscerate my voice. I still speak of God’s glory. I still speak of His faithfulness. I still speak of His love and truth. What a relief to know God can find anyone, no matter how tangled the jungle of our lives, and still work with us, speak through us, and help us realize our true purpose and potential, imperfect though we are.
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
~ Jesus in 2 Corinthians 12:8