It’s nice to know that God answers prayers. Even stupid ones.
Here’s the story. Last year, Mrs. Cornell had spent a great deal of time and effort to make our five children’s Christmas stockings, and she had had their names embroidered on the front. The embroidery company that did it is now out of business, so the stockings suddenly became irreplaceable, which made the loss of our son Corbin’s stocking all that more tragic.
There was no reason for Corbin’s stocking to be missing. Indeed, all the other stockings were exactly where they should have been at the beginning of the season. When Corbin’s stockings didn’t show up initially, we all assumed it was buried underneath the rest of our Christmas detritus, and that it would surface eventually.
But it didn’t.
Mrs. Cornell rummaged through every nook and cranny in the house. She tore apart our storage room and rearranged everything, certain that, sooner or later, the stocking would reveal itself.
This went on for almost a month. Mrs. Cornell became almost frantic as she considered every possible hiding place, every possible cupboard or shelf. She called her parents in Port Angeles, Washington, the place we had spent Christmas the year before. They, too, tore their house apart looking for the blasted thing.
No dice. No stocking, either.
So Mrs. Cornell made the matter an item of fervent prayer. That may sound petty or silly – after all, in the grand scheme of things, what’s one child’s Christmas stocking? But Mrs. Cornell turned that idea on its head – yes, one child’s Christmas stocking isn’t that big a deal, so why couldn’t God be bothered to spare a tiny moment to nudge us in the right direction? We’ve all heard the stories of people who misplace keys or wallets and pray and – sure enough – the things turn up. Why them and not us?
I didn’t realize this had become such a big deal to her until a few nights ago. Initially, she had thought, too, that this wasn’t that big a deal, but she had no explanation for the fact that God was ignoring us. What started as a very silly, simple thing had grown into an unexpected trial of her faith – and, not long after, mine, too. I began to add the stocking to my own personal prayers, and I, too, became frustrated that nothing was happening.
Tonight, Mrs. Cornell began the process of making a replacement stocking. She had reluctantly bought the materials, but she still hoped she wouldn’t have to do it. And as she fired up the sewing machine, I felt – something, A nudge. A feeling that maybe I ought to spend a few more minutes rummaging through the storage room in case she or I had missed something.
This was not my assigned task, mind you – I was supposed to be folding clothes. Mrs. Cornell noticed my dereliction of duty and came to find me, and I told her what I was doing and why I was doing it. She let me continue, but she was convinced that nothing would turn up. I still felt that little something, that nudge, which became a growing confidence that I would find it this time.
I went back downstairs. Mrs. Cornell was short on red thread to sew the stocking together, so she sent me off to Wal-Mart to pick some up. I thought of nothing but the stocking as I journeyed out into the bustle of Christmas Eve-Eve Wal-Mart madness, and I calmly and deliberately considered where that dumb stocking might be hiding.
It occurred to me that since we had schlepped the stocking up to Port Angeles and back last year, then maybe it might still be embedded in some of our luggage from that trip. We had made a large trip to Washington DC in the interim, so it wouldn’t make sense that we wouldn’t have noticed the stocking when we were packing for that one. But, still, it was worth a shot.
I got home and asked Mrs. Cornell if she had searched the luggage. She hadn’t. So I did. I took down each bag one by one and rifled through every pocket. I even took out the Thule overhead container that had been on the top of our car. It was empty.
It wasn’t until I moved the last bag away that I saw Corbin’s stocking nestled away on the floor, hiding not IN, but BEHIND the luggage.
(And, as a bonus, I discovered my daughter’s toiletry bag that we were sure we’d left at my parents’ house in Washington DC.)
Now what is the big lesson here? Does this mean that every time you lose something, God acts as your personal lost-and-found? No. Does this mean that those who don’t know where they put their keys are less righteous than I am? No, because I still can’t find my good keys – I’m using the spare set at the moment.
What it means, and I feel this very, very strongly as I share it with you, is that God took a moment to remind me that He knows who I am. He knows me by name, and He knows what I need, both large and small. He took a moment, not just to find a stocking, but to remind me that He’s still there, and He’s paying attention, even when I think He isn’t.
So when the kids asked Mrs. Cornell why she was crying with joy as I tossed the stocking to her on my way down the stairs, she couldn’t quite explain it. But I’m pretty sure that was the reason.
This is a small and simple thing, I know. But I’m pretty sure that if you’re willing, then at some point in time, God will let you know that He knows who you are, too, and that He’s paying attention. It’s no big deal, and, at the same time, it’s a massive deal, a true miracle, and the greatest knowledge a human being can have. Weird how it works out that way.