An AMBER Alert with a satisfying ending turned up in newsfeeds last week. Photos of an adorable Brooklynne Enix flashed across TV screens and social media, and in particular, in Ohio, a description of the 2-year-old was read on the radio, along with details about her disappearance in Tennessee the day before and the car she may be in.
Steve Adams listened as he drove along in Morrow County and realized the child in the back seat of the car in front of him, waving at him, fit the description, as did the vehicle she was in. He called 9-1-1, kept the vehicle in view until the police pulled it over, and stayed until the little girl was safely taken into care.
“Of the entire experience, Adams said ‘God put him in the right place at the right time.’ He had a doctors appointment that got rescheduled last Thursday, took a different road, heading toward his father’s house, heard the AMBER Alert on the radio and minutes later, saw the missing car in front of him.”
How often do we see such satisfying endings in this life? Amidst trauma and sadness, anxiety and distress, it’s no wonder we latch on to feel-good stories of dogs rescued, soldiers who overcome severe physical trauma, and strangers who reach out to the lonely and neglected. On some days, when I am feeling particularly discouraged about the world and my doubts fling arrows of distrust against faith in a good, powerful and personal God, I spend way too much time browsing and clicking links to stories and videos about times when things do work out right.
We set up Crowdfunding or GoFundMe accounts and the money pours in, and we think, “Even if I can’t get the satisfaction of helping somebody next to me [cynically insert here: in a manner worthy of a viral video or a HONY post], I can extend a hand to someone far away,” but not once do we give thought to those who are immediately around us, who may not be wearing their needs on their sleeves but who have needs nonetheless, sometimes material, sometimes emotional, usually spiritual. Not once do we see that the answers to our own life alerts are sitting within arm’s reach, gifts and blessings the Lord bestows on us for the sake of teaching, edifying, and showing His goodness and kindness to us.
A million words could be written about what causes us not to see what’s right there before our eyes, and first on the list in this generation must be the distraction of media, noise, and ready access to both via electronic devices. I’ll save that rant for another post (my kids just issued big, audible sighs of relief).
Today, I’m asking the above question a different way: How often have I paid attention to moments in my life when the Lord has made it all so much more worthwhile, so much more satisfying, because of the blessings He has chosen to put right in front of me? For Steve Adams, little Brooklynne’s face suddenly transformed from the impersonal visage of a random cute little girl to that of THE little girl whose name was being broadcast on the radio as a child in need of intervention; he gave it his attention, and that changed a life. Wisely, he acknowledges that it was the work of God to place him on that road at that time, and I submit even further that it was the mercy of God to cause his brain to make the connection between what he was hearing on the radio and what he saw immediately in front of him. God gave him eyes to see.
He didn’t pull over to check for GoFundMe accounts. He didn’t determine to do a study on how to find missing little girls. He heard the plea and he recognized the answer to the plea as it appeared within his sphere. Thank God for His provision of eyes to see at that moment and for Steve Adams acting upon it!
I thank God for the eyes He has given me to see—firstly for His word which has revealed to me His Son and a redemptive plan that stretches back through history to before the foundation of the world and forward to the day I will be within Him in eternity. But I also would be very neglectful if I didn’t use these eyes to see and acknowledge the material blessings He has provided me, as well as gifts to use for His service, an assembly of believers to work out with fear and trembling the salvation He has granted us, and a family where as a microcosm of heavenly faithfulness and service we learn more about the perfection of the Trinity. (Does this paragraph count for Facebook’s November Thanksgiving challenge?)
And for friends. All of them, but especially today, November 6, for a friendship that has given value to my life for the last twenty years. Becky, there’s no space here for a recitation of all that’s passed in these two decades. Let’s just say, we both made it through 50 with our hearts and sanity intact, with all thanks and glory going to God for that.
The gift of your friendship has shaped and deepened my life. You have enriched the philosophy, the art and the narrative of the days, as “a good steward of God’s grace”. That comes from Peter’s first letter where, as usual, he is encouraging believers to conduct themselves as vehicles of grace and to take on the mantle of the likeness of Christ. It fits the essence of the friendship you have showered on me:
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 4:8-11)
“Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love,” says the writer of Proverbs, “but a faithful man who can find?” (Proverbs 20:6) Augustine knew that true friendship can only be found and can only develop with diligent thought to the work that the Lord is doing in other people: “You only love your friend truly, after all, when you love God in your friend, either because he is in him, or in order that he may be in him. That is true love and respect. There is no true friendship unless You weld it between souls that cling together by the charity poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Spirit.” (Confessions) Therefore, he writes later, “Friendship is genuine only when you bind fast together people who cleave to you through the charity poured abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given to us.”
So, here I am, today, thankful that the Lord has given me eyes to see. That He has given me a good and godly friend like you, despite my unworthiness, as Walt Whitman said, “I no doubt deserved my enemies, but I don’t believe I deserved my friends.” And I am thankful that though it was not a necessary variable in the journey along the road to the Celestial City, the King was kind enough to give us fellow travelers.
“Friendship,” said C.S. Lewis, “is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art. . . . It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.”