Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Button

It was the time of evening when the sun had not quite dipped down past the horizon. There was still enough light to say that it wasn’t yet dark, in that late winter time of year. The snow had melted off the sidewalk, leaving the odd patch of ice to be wary of. As I walked along, scanning the ground in the half-light, I told myself again that I must be crazy. Why would I ever hope to find a button that had fallen off my coat the night before? The odds had to be astronomically stacked against it. So why did I seem to just know that I would find it if I retraced my steps? It really was ludicrous. But on I walked, searching as carefully as I could in the failing light.

Some months before this, I had bought a new coat. I hadn’t set out to do so, but as I was putting in time at the mall before an appointment, this one caught my eye It was the three season type, with the lining that comes out. I didn’t have a good coat, the kind that you can wear with dresses and nice slacks. The colour was navy; very practical. And it was on sale. Not liking to buy on impulse, it took a while to convince myself that it was a legitimate purchase. The buttons were attractive; navy with a bit of gold on them. I determined to do my best not to lose any, since they would be difficult to replace.

Time went by, and I wore the coat often. I was pleased with my purchase. One day as I was getting ready to leave for work, I discovered that a button was missing. I was disappointed, but reminded myself that I still had the spare that had come with the coat.

That evening as I set out on my forty five minute walk home, the notion struck me that I might find the button if I retraced my steps. Of course, common sense and reason immediately told me not to be ridiculous. But, in my mind, I countered this with my belief that God knew where it was, and that He could lead me to it. This certainty only seemed to grow, even as the light failed more with each passing minute. On I trudged, head down, searching all the way, praying now and then to myself, ‘You know where it is, Lord. You can show me’.

Nearing my neighbourhood, I felt a mixture of disappointment and confusion. Now it truly was dark, and I began to abandon hope I had been so certain. I had prayed and asked God to help me find the button. Finally, I told myself not to be so silly and juvenile; why would God care about my button? Surely He had more important prayer requests to answer. I arrived home, and soon my ‘button quest’ was forgotten in the busyness of the evening.

The next morning on my way out the door to catch the bus, I grabbed a spool of thread and a needle. Having resigned myself to the fact that I would have to use the spare button after all, I planned do the needed repair as I rode to work. What had I been thinking, anyway? Asking God to help me find my button. Ridiculous.

Opening the front door, I noticed that the porch and steps glistened, as though there had been freezing rain overnight. Cautiously I navigated my way down the steps with my head down, making sure of my footing . As I reached the bottom, and was about to step onto the sidewalk, I saw it. My button! There on the sidewalk! It had been there the whole time! I was flabbergasted. Yet, hadn’t I known that I would find it?

As I sat on the bus, I could barely contain my excitement. You would have thought that I had seen the Red Sea parted! I had found my button! And I knew that God had something to do with it. He had planted the thought in my mind. He had known that I wanted to keep all of those buttons.

When I arrived at work, I told the first co-worker that I saw about my button. I wonder what she thought of me, all a flutter about a silly button. But I just had to tell someone. It was too incredible not to share.

I was a fairly new Christian then, just beginning to learn about God. My general impression of God while I was growing up was of some fearsome, distant Celestial Judge who looked down from heaven with a frowning countenance, cognizant of my every thought, word and deed. As this God of my imagination observed each aspect of my life, he stood with a great clipboard, marking down all infractions. He was keeping record of them to be tallied at Judgement Day. The relief I felt after going to ‘confession’ was short lived. I was always aware of my inability to be ‘good enough’, and often experienced a nagging, dreadful doubt that I would ever get to heaven.

When I was forty years old, God opened my eyes to see that my only hope, for the here and now and for eternity, was in Jesus Christ. Suddenly I had the assurance that I had always longed for, and my journey into Truth began. The Lord has been so kind to me, slowly revealing to my sometimes reluctant heart the incredible love and patience that He has for me. In so many small ways, He has steadfastly watered and grown the seed of faith that He placed in me on that day nearly 12 years ago. Finding my button for me was one of those small ways.

I still wear that coat, and buttons still fall off of it. Sometimes I hear them fall onto a ceramic or marble floor, and so ‘catch’ them. Twice I have found them in my car. I seem to be missing one at the present time, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it turns up one day. Each time that I recover one of these stray fasteners, I remember that day when God impressed upon my heart that He was watching me. That He was concerned with what concerned me. That He cares enough for me to let me know in that little ‘big’ way that He really is a God who is not too busy or distant to strengthen my weak faith, and help me to see just how intimately He is involved in my life.

He is the God of the big and of the small. Size doesn’t necessarily dictate importance, and He uses the most insignificant things in life to cause us to experience Him in a personal way. Just as Hagar did in the desert as she fled from mistreatment by her mistress Sarai, we can know Him as ‘El Elroi’, the God Who Sees.

It is incredible that we can know this God of all Heaven and Earth. Not just know about Him, but experience Him in a real way as we see what Scripture says about Him proven in our daily lives. His faithfulness and loving-kindness are not just lovely thoughts, they describe the attitude that a heavenly Father has toward His children. ‘Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, on those who hope for His loving-kindness’ (Ps 33:18). He is watching over us every moment, caring for us and leading us. ‘I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you’ (Ps 32:8). He is sovereignly involved in every need and detail in your life. ‘The LORD will accomplish what concerns me ‘ (Ps 138:8a).

Perhaps you have been praying for a long time for a big answer to a big prayer, and you are discouraged. You may be tempted to conclude that God isn’t listening, after all. That He is too busy, or that you and your problems are too insignificant for His attention. If this is the case, I would encourage you to take note of the details in your life. The little things that you might take for granted, or maybe not notice at all. When you manage to find a good parking spot in the pouring rain, saving yourself from getting drenched. When you have just enough change for that something that you ran into the store to pick up. When you get a card or a phone call from a good friend, just when you are feeling at your lowest. That is Him, you know. Watching over you, working in every detail of your life, proving over and over that He cares for you, and that there is no situation or problem that is too small for Him. Sometimes we trust Him for the big things, but forget that He orchestrates all the little things as well. He is a God who sees, and He sees you!


Amy said...

Beautiful story about the button. So much substance within it's messages.

I especially loved what you said here:

"It is incredible that we can know this God of all Heaven and Earth. Not just know about Him, but experience Him in a real way as we see what Scripture says about Him proven in our daily lives. His faithfulness and loving-kindness are not just lovely thoughts, they describe the attitude that a heavenly Father has toward His children."

Indeed, Papa IS watching over us every moment, caring for us and leading us! This Truth is so wonderful!

~Amy :)

RJW said...

I totally identified with this experience; I have not "lost" anything for over 25 years! God told me a long time ago my misplaced items were just waiting to be found, not lost at all. And He always leads me to them, miraculously!

Thank you for sharing and for the encouragement your words contain. God is a God of seeking and finding, look at us. :)

Aida said...

Maureen, what a beautiful story and I can relate to Father caring about everything that concerns us.

A number of years ago while at work, I noticed that the diamond in my engagement ring was gone. Panic set in but I talked to Father about it. I re-traced my steps from one building to another and when, I got back to my building, I happened to look down.

Outside the door there was a rubber mat . . . the kind that is covered with rubber prongs sticking up. I looked at it and saw something among the prongs and it was shining. It was my diamond.

I'm sure several sets of feet stepped on that mat before I got there but Father kept the diamond safe for me.

Maureen said...

Amy it is a truly beautiful fact, isn't it? Before I knew Christ, the thought that God saw every move I made was cause for fear. But now it is such a great comfort that the sovereign ruler of the universe has His eye on me. Amazing.

RJW thanks for stopping by. Isn't it those little things He does that have such a huge impact? What a loving Father.

Aida I can't imagine how distraught you would have been losing your ring. I only lost a button! But then to realize that He had kept it safe until you found it. I bet your smile lit up the whole street!

William said...

Well, Maureen, this is pretty good. I suppose I'm at a place right now where I need some experiences like you had with your button. I guess I would want to know why simply trusting what the Bible says about God's love wasn't sufficient for you at the time you lost the button or wrote the post, but you think it ought to be for me?

Maureen said...

As a new Christian, I DID believe that God loved me, as a Biblical fact. In reaching down from heaven, and giving me the faith that He could find that silly button, He only brought that truth a little further along the way from my head to my heart. It's like you know your earthly father loves you, like he loves all your brothers and sisters, because he takes care of you, provides all your material needs, keeps you safe, etc. Then once in a while, he takes you on an outing, just you and him. He makes that love personal to you. You are not just "one of the kids". That is what God does in our lives. I think we believe that He loves "us", as a corporate body, a group of people. But when He answers specific prayer, or in His providence arranges things so that you KNOW He was behind it, and it was meant just for your benefit, then it becomes more real. He knows what we are made of. Of course we SHOULD believe that He loves us. But He delights to reveal Himself in a personal way, beyond the "doctrine" that we find in Scripture.