Everyday Purposes


My sons and I recently watched Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. It opens with an amazing chase scene in which a super spy employs the most incredible and, yes, impossible escape tactics imaginable. He finally eludes a band of violent pursuers and reconnects with his team so he can deliver his package of (you guessed it) nuclear launch codes.

However, as he casually turns a corner, a young lady walking past looks at him, takes a gun out of her purse, calmly shoots him and takes the codes. After such mind-blowing heroics, it was unthinkable that this super spy could be taken out in such a “pedestrian” encounter. Yet this is often our experience. My greatest defeats were not during heroic confrontations but when it seemed I was between “real” battles. Sometimes it’s the inane and mundane that undermine my soul more than the fierce and the fiery.
I had an epiphany recently in the middle of a routine morning. There was nothing special about the event. I was plodding through a common but frustrating retail experience that became a sharp reminder that nothing about our lives is mundane.

I needed a cheap, hanging fluorescent shop light, an errand that should have taken 20 minutes. At Lowes, I couldn’t find exactly what I needed, so I thought an employee might be able to help. After engaging one, who paged another, and then waiting in vain for nearly half an hour for the lighting specialist to respond, I left in a bit of a huff.

Annoyed, I drove to Home Depot, wondering why I had been so disloyal to the original home improvement megastore. I quickly found exactly what I needed on display but not on the shelf. So I went in search of an employee. Same story: he paged a specialist, again I waited 10, 15 minutes—my ridiculous errand was devouring my day.

Finally, an employee began to meander my way, but she was talking with another man. It soon became apparent they were chitchatting. I felt my blood pressure rise as I moved a little closer to indicate that I was an annoyed customer.

Then my blood pressure and my unrighteous indignation began to drop as I realized they were talking about their experiences during Hurricane Sandy. Then the employee asked me if I was eavesdropping or needed help. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I couldn’t help but eavesdrop. Our church has done a lot of Sandy relief.”

The gentleman asked which church I represented. “New Hope Community Church,” I responded.

He smiled wide. “You came and cleaned out my house. We don’t know what we would have done without you.”

Within seconds he began to pour out his heart as he relived his nightmare: how the dark waters quickly and quietly filled his home; how he and his wife had to break through their skylight and carry all four children, aged 4 to 12, onto the roof; how from 9:30 p.m. to 9:00 a.m., he and his family clung to the peak of their bungalow as the surging black water surrounded them. He told me that in the early morning, as the winds blew wildly, a large tree branch fell on the roof that held them inches above the flood.

As he spoke of the darkest moment in his life, he began to tear up. Hours into the ordeal, his leg began to cramp. For a short time he was incapable of holding his children—or himself—on the roof as he writhed uncontrollably in pain. After the cramp subsided, he couldn’t understand how he and all of his children were still balanced on the shingles. He then realized that it was neither his arms nor the roof but the hand of God that held them fast and kept them safe through the storm.

My immature, embarrassing frustration quickly dissolved as I, too, was reminded of a hand of love that had slowed down my day so I could meet this dear man, mourn with him and pray with him.

I wish that all things inane, painful and tragic could quickly and neatly come together in an “aha!” moment; most of the time it takes decades for the beautiful big picture to emerge. Many of us have seen tragedies and mysteries that seemed to have no value or purpose bear great fruit after many years of confusion. There are many more questions that will only be answered in Glory. Nevertheless, God sometimes allows us glimpses into His marvelous divine plan that is woven into a complex tapestry of joy and sorrow.

These glimpses are simply reminders of an absolute truth that encompasses every step and every moment of our lives: All things work together for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to His purposes (Rom. 8:28).

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