Sometimes the smallest things can provide the biggest reminders.
This past Friday rain was in the forecast. For those of you in education, particularly at the elementary level, you know how much joy and happiness rain can bring to the school day (yes, I’m being sarcastic). Along with its diabolical cousins wind and a full moon, there are few things that can wreak as much havoc on a school day than rain. If you know, you know.
I knew I wouldn’t have time to hit the El Pollo Loco drive-thru for lunch, and unfortunately I left the house forgetting to bring something from home. So on the way to school, I decided to stop and pick something up at the local bastion of convenience, 7-11. Please don’t judge. I was in a rush.
In the store, I grabbed a pre-packaged turkey and cheese sandwich, a bag of pretzels, and then proceeded over to the drink counter. Knowing it was going to be a busy day, I decided I’d need all the caffeine I could get, so I grabbed an empty 50-oz. Double Gulp cup. After filling it with iced tea, I moved down to the counter, grabbed a lid, and, much to my chagrin, discovered the store was out of the large straws.
Dang, I thought, knowing the little straws available were only about two-thirds the height of the mammoth-sized container holding my liquid energy for the day. While I didn’t burst into tears or anything, I was a little bummed.
I know, I know. It’s a straw, Brent. Not the end of the world. A First World problem for sure.
And then I remembered the front seat of my car.
Four days earlier, on Monday afternoon on my way home from work, I had stopped at the Starbucks drive-thru for an end-of-the-day treat -- a Trenta Strawberry Acai Refresher, my favorite. When I pulled up to the window, the barista handed me my drink...and an extra large straw. I’ve gotten used to Starbucks’ new drinkable lids, so I no longer use a straw. I casually tossed the straw onto the passenger seat and proceeded to drive home, enjoying my drink on the way.
For the next four days, driving to and from work and around town, I would look over and see the straw resting on the front seat. I should probably throw that away, I remember thinking to myself more than once. But for whatever reason, I didn’t. My car isn’t littered with trash, but that unneeded straw remained on the seat for four days, completely defying the typical lifespan of a superfluous item such as this.
Until Friday. Until I walked out of the 7-11 in need of this item and all was right with the world again. Or at least I had an appropriately sized straw for my iced tea.
So why do I share this story?
While it would be easy to dismiss this as luck, I choose to think of it in a different way. I fiercely believe, and these two related incidents beautifully reminded me of one thing -- God cares about and is involved in the little things of our lives. Even the really little things. Like a straw.
Would my day have gone OK if I hadn’t had the right-sized straw for my iced tea? Yep. Would I have survived having to remove the lid and drink the last third of my beverage straight out of the cup? Sure would have.
But four days earlier, I had been provided with a straw. A straw I didn’t need. I had been given something that, at the moment, was seen as extra, as something to be thrown away. But unbeknownst to me, I would have need of it later. How often does this happen in our lives without us realizing it? How often are we given things, often in the form of having to endure struggle, that will benefit us later?
Was getting that straw part of my destiny, God’s ultimate plan for my life? I don’t think so. But is He powerful enough to have orchestrated the events above to have provided for me in the simplest of ways, by giving me a straw? I absolutely believe so. Because that’s how much He cares for me. That’s how much he cares for all of us.
I think this is an overly simplistic example of how things often happen in our lives which we may not understand at the time, but help prepare us for something we’re going to experience down the road. In this case, it was a straw I didn’t know I’d need a few days later. In other cases, it may be something less pleasant and much more serious, like a failed relationship that teaches us how to better cultivate the next one. Or being let go of a job you loved, only to make you available for a better one that comes along.
So the next time something falls perfectly into place, seemingly by chance, maybe it wasn’t so random. Or the next time you go through a season of struggle, remember that it’s more than likely preparing you for something down the road. Because as one of my favorite verses says, “And we know that in all things” -- ALL things, even the really, really little things -- “God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
Brent has worked in the field of education as a teacher and administrator for 25 years. He is currently Principal of Alta Murrieta Elementary School in Murrieta, California. Read more about Brent here.
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