I like to people watch, it’s always fascinating.
This past Sunday I sat in the narthex area of our bustling little church. It’s a tiny old church, a chapel really, with a number of tasteful additions holding it all together. With my wife and our newborn baby at home, the toddler and I made the trek to church alone this morning. The negotiation to get him through the door of his Sunday School class was a bit lengthy and by the time he’d decided to stay there was no more room for left for me in the main part of the church—the nave—so I found a pew in the narthex just outside.
It’s kind of amusing to see all sorts of people passing in and out of the church doors. Last time I sat out here it was a veritable treasure trove of interesting people to see—and fascinating things to write about. As if God’s grace extends so far that he shrugs his shoulders and says, “Well, I couldn’t fit you into the church so I may as well give you lots to think about out here.”
This time was no different.
God is good.
It happened about halfway through the Mass when a little boy burst through the nave doors, his mother following closely behind. He had to go the bathroom, that much was clear, and it seemed quite frantic but it wasn’t anything unusual until another man swung open the doors behind them evidently in hot pursuit. “Wait, wait,” he whispered in an urgent tone. “Wait!”
The mother and son swung around, impatient, to come face to face with the stranger who quickly closed the gap between them and trust a toy into the small boy’s hands. A plastic stegosaurus.
“Here,” he said, “you dropped this!” And he turned to disappear back into the church.
The boy’s face lit up in that moment and the mother let out an audible sigh of relief—crisis averted!—before they turned once again and sped off down the hall towards the bathrooms.
I imagined, with a toddler of my own, what tears there would’ve been if the boy had realized his dinosaur was gone—that he’d drop it and it’d been lost—and it occurred to me, in that instant, how much this short exchange is like our life with Christ.
Because Jesus has our stegosaurus.
Sometime ago I read a book by Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft. The book How to Be Holy, is easily one of the most poignant and profound things I’ve ever read and, in my life, I keep circling back to its simple message. A message rooted in St. Paul’s letter to the Church of Rome,
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Kreeft goes on, in his book, to explain that Paul couldn’t have possibly meant that all things work together simply for the good of the whole world, or the whole church, or even for the good of all Christians. Sometimes, maybe always, those things are working in tandem but what St. Paul meant, and what God has revealed to us, is that He wills for things to work out for our individual lives.God works all things for good for each and every one of us.
And that’s how I know that God has our stegosaurus.
Because along the way we lose the plot. We “drop” things, if you will, as we journey in faith. We pray for events or circumstances which never seem to pan out and, often, in our short spans of attention, we simply give up. We assume that whatever we’re praying for our struggling through will never come out right—we assume that God isn’t listening or isn’t answering or that when he’s closed a door he wasn’t planning on opening a window after all.
But we’re wrong (surprise, surprise).
God has our stegosaurus, even if we’ve dropped it in our hurry to go off and do something else.
Even if we held onto it for dear life, for years and years, and only finally gave it up reluctantly.
God still has our back. He still has our fundamental wellbeing in mind.
I recently read about a parish that’s been exploding with vocations. Statistically, the number of young men and women seeking out religious life from this particular parish is ten or twenty times greater than other parishes in this diocese and, for a while, it left many confused as to what exactly was going on. When someone finally connected the dots, however, it ended up being quite simple.
For years, decades, this particular parish had been the prayer focus of a group of cloistered nuns. They’d prayed, hour after after, day after day, for vocations to spring up from this parish. For men and women to enter religious life and serve the Church and their fellow mankind.
It was prayer, across decades and, most likely, most of those that did the praying never lived to see the day when suddenly vocations began to explode. When suddenly the focus of all of their intentions came to fruition in a way that shocked and amazed those around to see it. An incredible vocation boom which left many with nothing to do but shake their heads in amazement and declare it to be a miracle—which left people like me to write about it, an incredible echo of prayer down from decades.
Because Jesus doesn’t lose the plot; he doesn’t leave loose ends, even if we think he’s forgotten.
What this Sunday morning’s brief but poignant encounter reminded me was this: That God’s got our stegosaurus, even if we drop it and forget, he’s running up behind us to return to us what is ours—and to bless us with so much more than we can even imagine.