My arms were getting tired, I was quickly losing patience and my annoyance wanted to turn to panic.
Our microwave oven died. Sharon and I decided to head down to El Jardin, a local mall in Quito, to find a replacement. After agreeing on which model to buy, Sharon headed out to do some other shopping. Checking out at the cash register was left to me. Ecuadorian stores typically have several layers of security to prevent theft so the check out process can be lengthy. After several minutes, I was on my way and even managed to keep the cash register receipt in my hand to show the security officer at the door. Triumphant in my purchase, I headed back to the car in the mall's parking garage.
Preferring efficiency over ease, I chose to take the steps down to the level where we had parked. Upon our arrival, I had made a very clear mental note of where we left the car. Exit the stairwell, turn to the right, and it was in the small alcove at the end of that section of the garage. With every step, the microwave weighed 5 pounds more. I'm not a shopper at the best of times. so all I wanted to do was get to the car, relieve my arms of their burden, and escape to the quietness of our home.
When I arrived at what I believed to be our parking spot, I was somewhat surprised to find the car wasn't there. I was certain I had made a good mental map, but this wouldn't be the first time my "good mental map" was fundamentally flawed. So I started to wander. I went one section to the right, one section to the left. No car. I moved over to the next set of parking spaces. I wandered up and down the aisles. No car.
My arms ached. My annoyance was piqued. And panic was about to set in. Car theft was a significant problem, and even though we used anti-theft devices, they were more security theatrics to make me feel better than real deterrents to skilled car thieves. I returned to where I *thought* the car should have been parked, now in my mind the scene of a crime. Someone had stolen our car.
Setting down the microwave, I phoned Sharon. "Honey," I said, "our car is gone. Someone has stolen the car."
"No, they haven't," she assured me. "It hasn't been stolen."
Somewhat irritated at her blind faith and obvious lack of understanding - I was staring right at the empty parking spot where the car had been - I repeated myself.
"Yes, it is gone. I'm standing right here in front of the parking spot where we left it. It is gone."
Her voice became incredulous. "Graham, it isn't stolen. It is right here!"
"Right here where we left it. I'm sitting in it."
Stunned, I was initially certain she was sitting in someone else's car. But how would our key open up the door for someone else's vehicle? And what are the chances that a car, identical to ours, was parked in a spot that was close to where I thought we had left our car? I had surveyed almost the entire garage and I was certain - our car was not there. So, I did the next reasonable thing . . . I challenged her.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes," (she is laughing now). "I'm sure I'm sitting in our car. Where are you?"
"In the garage, right where we left the car."
"No, you're not. I'm in the car. I can't see you. What level are you on?"
Those last five words hit me like a ton of bricks which is what the microwave now felt like.
"Um, let me check." I wandered back to the stair well. I was on level two. I relayed that information to Sharon. She was enjoying quite a nice chuckle by now.
"Well," she replied, "I'm on level three. I think if you go down one more level you will find the car, with me in it. We are both still here."
At this point I was too annoyed to see the humour. There was no option but to head down one more flight of stairs, turn right, and - miracle of miracles - there was Sharon, sitting in our car, killing herself laughing. "Hi honey," she said. "You found me."
This is one of the funniest Ecuador stories we have. It proves several things about the male of the species (upon which I have no further comment at this point).
It also serves to illustrate how easily we can be confused, yet stubbornly hold on to those confused beliefs even though there is irrefutable evidence of the truth. My perceptions were completely distorted. Because of my eagerness to put down the microwave and to get home, I allowed myself to discount the possibility of my error because it seemed the most reasonable explanation.
I have done this exact same thing with God. I have allowed myself to force my expectations on Him, to see only what I want to see, and to deny the truth of the reality - His reality - around me. Part of living in the Kingdom of God is realizing that God does not work by our agendas, He is beyond our understanding, and because He is God and we are not, accomplishes His purposes in ways that confound us. His ways are not our ways, His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isa. 55:8-9). This brings us comfort. It means that He is always engaged with us, although usually hidden. He relates to us based on grace, compassion and mercy. He understands that we get confused about parking spaces and the more important things in life.
As we start this week, do you need a reminder of God's engagement? A reorientation to His faithfulness? Take a moment and read Isaiah 40, or Job 38-40. Or maybe these verses from Isaiah 49:13-16:
Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth;
break forth, O mountains, into singing!
For the LORD has comforted his people
and will have compassion on his afflicted.
But Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me;
my Lord has forgotten me."
"Can a woman forget her nursing child,
that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.
Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are continually before me.
This week, whatever it may hold, is under the loving supervision of a God who holds all things in the palm of His hand. Enjoy it with Him!