The other Sunday I lost a bunch of keys which included my front door key, car keys, and a strange little key I’ve carried around for years and which belongs to an unknown lock. They fell out of the pocket of the raincoat I’d slung over my arm whilst walking the dog. Our walk had taken us across fields, though woodlands, alongside lakes and down overgrown paths. I think you can imagine my horror when I returned to the car hot and tired and realised Harley and I were stranded.
I’m not sure what I would have done in pre-mobile phone days. Thankfully I was able to ring my husband and he raced to the rescue bearing the spare car key.
It’s an expensive and inconvenient business having car and door keys copied. I was fed up with myself, particularly as the situation should never have arisen. My husband usually walks the dog before church while I’m shoe-horning the kids out of bed and getting a head start on the lunch preparations. But we were celebrating our son’s fifteenth birthday and an exciting present had to be assembled IMMEDIATELY after breakfast. For technical and weight reasons, this was obviously a man’s job.
Although I’d just washed and styled my hair, put on a new dress and applied make-up – and despite the fact that the BBC was forecasting rain – I volunteered to go out with the dog. To avoid looking like a Mothers’ Union garden party at Glastonbury, I dragged out of the cupboard a little used mac that covered the dress and slipped on a pair of sensible shoes.
As soon as I stepped out of the car, the grey and rainy morning prophesied by the Met Office unexpectedly became a blazing sauna of heat and humidity. I took off the coat, releasing the full glory of the new dress, and hurried along the path, not wanting to make the whole family late for church.
But the pleasant weather had also released a sudden succession of early morning dog walkers necessitating time-consuming small talk and bottom sniffing (I’ll let you judge who did which), and frequent bending down to attach the lead to stop Harley running off with his chums.
Then, just as we were nearing the gate to the car park, I spotted a notorious local dog with his owner. Deciding to take evasive action rather than risk a disagreeable rumpus, I doubled back down an overgrown path, broke into a jog, stumbled through the long grass, my dress and coat catching on the brambles, my hair and make-up frazzled, my face damp with sweat, my bare legs scratched by branches and stung by nettles. If that wasn’t bad enough, I then experienced the horrible realisation that the keys were gone and the birthday plans for the day were under threat.
I didn’t get to church. Instead, I delivered the dog back home, dropped the kids at their church groups and returned with my husband to retrace my steps. We walked the circuit together, and then we split up and completed the route in opposite directions.
By now my regular dog walking chums had dragged themselves out of bed and wanted to know why I was out and about without Harley and poking around in the undergrowth. News travels fast by bush telegraph. Soon I was bumping into people who already knew I’d lost my keys, having just met hubby and been told the tale of woe. There was much sage wagging of heads about the dangers of shallow pockets. They all promised to keep their eyes peeled. Eventually I gave up. There were teenagers to pick up and a celebration birthday lunch to prepare.
The incident was frustrating, humiliating and inconvenient. I was determined not to be beaten. The following morning I was out again with Harley, encouraging him to sniff out the keys. I parted the long grass, I kicked aside dead leaves, I worried, I prayed. I asked that God would direct my eyes to the right place.
I was reminded of the woman in the Bible who had lost a precious coin and turned the house upside down looking for it. The instruction, ‘Seek and ye shall find,’ echoed around my mind and I contrasted the single mindedness I was displaying looking for my keys and the often haphazard approach I have to seeking the Kingdom of God. Having mused on this point, I internally patted myself on the back. Surely this was a message God had wanted me to learn! Now I had learned it, the keys would miraculously appear . . . But no.
I went out the following day. Nothing. I returned home, finally admitting defeat, and almost immediately had a phone call from a dog walking friend, who had spoken to another dog walker who had seen something on Facebook. Someone was going to ring me with the details, but never did and I didn’t have their number. So I scoured the local St Albans’ Facebook Groups and eventually found what I was looking for. Hallelujah! I messaged the lady, arranged to meet up at her house and went round with a bunch of flowers and a very grateful heart that my keys were restored.
What did I learn from this? Don’t go walking the dog in inappropriate clothing? Have a similarly determined approach to seeking the Kingdom of Heaven as I had looking for my keys? God answers prayer in unexpected ways and through the kindness of friends and strangers?
What I eventually learned from the whole thing, after re-reading the parable of the woman with the lost coin (Luke 15:8–10), is that I had misunderstood the story completely, having cast myself in the role of the woman, with the Kingdom of God being the coin/bunch of keys. But that is not the case at all.
God is the seeker and we are the precious coin. He seeks us unrelentingly and with singular devotion. He searches for us amidst the brambles and nettles of our lives, and allows other people the joy of helping us to be found and reconnected to the Father. It’s not a question of me working harder, screwing up my determination and trudging on in search of truth and meaning. It’s understanding that He seeks me out because I’m precious. He is the one who is proactive, always wanting our relationship to deepen. All I have to do is respond and celebrate that I’m found in Him.