One of the most jarring sentences a parent can hear is when their child says from behind a closed bathroom door,
“Mom! I need help.”
Those words will make you stop whatever you are doing, even if you are breaking from a ten-day fast and are about to eat your first morsel of food. You might weigh your options for a second and pretend that you didn’t hear the cry for help, but that only lasts for about ten seconds before the plea comes again.
MOM! I NEED HELP!”
Nothing ever good awaits behind that door, like on a game show where you get to pick a prize. There’s no yacht or vacation there for you to shriek over and text your friends that you won.
And it takes a seasoned individual to listen for the pitch and tone of the voice calling out for help. Was it a high octave or a struggling whisper that caught the attention? Was it more steady and self-assured, or was there a hint of apprehension?
These slight inflections can make a world of difference.
“What do you need me for?” you say with your lips pressed against the door and then turning your head to place your ear there to pick up on obscure facts before the bomb is dropped.
It can be anyone’s guess what is going on in there, and many situations flash before one’s eyes.
That is when you know you will have to open the door blindly and prepare yourself for whatever might come your way. Usually, the high drama happened when the kids were younger, and often it was not as bad as they made it out to be.
“I have this funny looking thing on my ankle. Is that normal?”
You examine it like you just graduated at the top of your class from medical school and say in the most reassuring voice you can come up with,
“I had one of those once. It just went away.”
That often brings peace and calm to a situation that is on the brink of going hysterical. When you interject a bit of camaraderie, it sends the message that one isn’t alone in their turmoil, but a whole network of people has had the same issue.
You have become WebMD without the scare tactics that leave you awake at night, wondering if you will see your next birthday.
“Here. This cream will heal it.
You put on the hydrocortisone so that it further appears that the life threatening situation has been taken care of. Everyone has their smiles back, and the sandwich you left on the counter awaits.
If you get by only having to get another roll of toilet paper from the closet and carefully throw it in, that’s the best outcome. You crack the door and use your best bowling move to get it in without disturbing anyone’s privacy.
Until the other night, I thought I had met the worst of unpredictable circumstances, but I realized another could be just as complicated. In my house, it’s possible. How can one find so much trouble while sitting on the furniture?
I was speaking to my daughter and leaned my right arm back. One of my rings slid off my finger in seconds and fell behind the couch. I jumped up quickly, not wanting to disturb the original arrangement of the crime scene. I have learned that you don’t move quickly when something falls off your person. You try not to disturb the ground in your quest to find what has gone missing.
A similar situation happened to me while shoveling a few weeks before the couch ate my ring. One of my white wireless earphones had fallen into the snow in the driveway. I had just scooped up an enormous load to dump into the yard. I slowly put the shovel down and moved carefully away.
I tried to see any imprint it had left. But there wasn’t one.
After looking for a minute, probably more like twenty seconds, I summoned my daughter. I called in a favor for all those times she was in the bathroom and needed my help, and I had left my sandwich on the counter.
While I stood frozen, she came out and located information on her phone.
“I just saw someone do this on Tik Tok. You can find these by having them play a sound.”
Like a submarine below sea level, she demonstrated how they could be retrieved by getting quiet and listening for a tone that played. Within minutes, I found it. I took comfort in knowing that the technology was created because that meant I wasn’t the only person on earth who had lost one. There was a group of us with lost earphones and funny things growing on our ankles.
My ring suddenly being snatched away, that was a different story. There was no rescue other than flipping the couch in all directions. First, I used the tactic of wedging my hands down the cushions on each side. I removed my other ring and watch because I have had the experience while searching for something, I lost another.
That brought no answer. We moved it forward. We shifted it back. I prayed while she looked in every crevice. Weirdly, it was in the front part of the seat in between two pieces of material. She plucked it out and handed it to me. How it ended up where it did was a mystery to me when it had fallen behind me, nowhere near the front. Maybe in all of our shuffling around, it had been displaced.
The upside was that once we had the couch moved, I decided to vacuum all the items that spilled out of it from the past twenty years, and we have only owned it for eleven.
Crisis averted with it back on my finger, a few nights later, she said,
“I dropped my pen, and I can’t find it!”
Now that it wasn’t my precious jewelry, we could be more casual about it—no need for panic. Pens are a dime a dozen around my home.
However, it was her pen that writes on her tablet. It has equity in it, similar to what I had lost. It isn’t your ordinary writing utensil that you can forget about and move on.
“It fell into the side of the chair.”
The last time I had to put my arms deep into the cushions of that rocker recliner, she had been running a fever. As I had tried to give her a pain reliever, it fell directly down one of the sides. I tried to get it back but pulled up handfuls of hair, change, and every imaginable snack crumb you can think of. It could have served as an emergency food shelter during a famine. There was not enough hand sanitizer to remove the filth that jumped on my hands.
I was not looking forward to doing a seek-and-find mission for her pen. But I took off all my valuables again and dove in with both hands shoved to the far back of the chair. I was up to my elbows with my face directly where she had been seated.
“I hope you had your blanket under you because my face is where you were sitting.”
“No, and I need to wash these pajama pants.”
I just told myself she carries my DNA. It wasn’t like she came in unwashed off the street.
All the pens she had ever lost were hidden in the back part of the chair, screaming to be set free. My right hand hit what felt like a pen, and I unearthed two of them. With my left, I did the same.
To add to the insult, I found an AA battery. Those are like mining for gold when we desperately need one, and unbeknownst to us, she had been perching herself on that for months while I was turning out every junk drawer trying to find one.
The last thing I pulled out of the cavern was her missing pen. I felt like I had delivered multiple children or performed an appendectomy.
“Oh, no! I can’t find my pen,” she said. This was a day or two after the last episode, which involved one she had just bought at the office supply store. Right as I was going to tell her she was on her own, she held it up.
“I found it. I have my blankets stuffed down on both sides of this chair.”
Sometimes you must be proactive to fight back against the forces of darkness.
Just like my couch and chair swallowing our possessions alive, we can allow our mindsets to make us lose our positive outlook.
Nothing is lost or stolen in the kingdom of heaven.
I have often quoted this out loud when I misplaced an item, and it will usually show up quickly. Whether it’s a prayer or a statement, it has proven effective.
This idea can be applied to people as well. Many take it upon themselves to save ‘the lost.’ They view those who do not share their belief as a competition, and they must race about trying to ‘win’ souls. But this may be the wrong perception.
What if it’s a misplacement, and they need someone to come along and pull them from a far dark corner where they are hanging out with the lint and cracker crumbs? It’s not that a good act hasn’t been done to remove someone from a mess, but who gets the credit?
I have been in religious circles where the number of rescued souls is broadcast like a lottery jackpot.
“We have reached 1.4 million people.”
And, I have wondered, has that been an effective, long-term approach to having people know the nature and character of God?
Last summer, while trying to get on a bus, a woman was going along the line handing out cards warning people to repent, and many were throwing them on the ground. It had no impact on anyone because it has been done so many times. It had been a long day at a state fair, and everyone wanted to board, get on with their lives, and overcome their indigestion.
Was she wrong for what she was doing? No. I put mine in my purse because I didn’t want to be rude, and I believe how you treat others is how you would like to be treated. Did God tell her to go out and do that? I don’t know. Maybe.
Much of what was on the card wasn’t positive. It presented God as an angry entity ready to smite, which is probably why most people discarded it quickly.
From my experience, opportunity comes when I am led to someone who needs to know that God cares for them.
It’s not a forced conversation or a wrestling match to see who can be the victor. One nice gesture can mean a lot to someone who is struggling and can transmit the love of God to them in seconds. Holding a door for someone or getting something down from a shelf at a store they cannot reach can be all it takes.
Or retrieving a special pen from a yucky, unlikely place.
I am pretty sure I can deliver a baby now…