Have you ever had a day that was going really well? Life is cooperating. People are laughing. The coffee is hot. Your friend just proposed (and she said Yes). Everything seems to be living in unison and flowing smoothly.
And then it happens. The beauty of the day is abruptly disrupted by that dreaded question,
“Where are my keys? No seriously… I can’t find my car key.”
No one likes this question. Usually you’re at home and you’ve just misplaced your keys. But you’re at home, so you KNOW they’re around somewhere.
Let’s swap out your home for a block of Jackson Ward in the middle of Richmond (where your parents told you not to go alone at night). And let’s add in 50 strangers who are moving around the area painting buildings, throwing trash away, etc. Mix in some rain and caution tape and you’ve got a nice picture in your head of where my keys MIGHT be.
My friends and I had just finished painting (i.e. filming others paint) murals on the side of some buildings. It’s all part of a great organization called Arts in the Alley.
We were given vouchers for free food and drink at the local Hardywood Brewery. As we were leaving I realized I didn’t have my car key (yes, singular key. I like light pockets).
This is not good.
I’m kinda sorta freaking out on the inside. But a certain girl is with me so I play it cool on the outside. (I believe the phrase, “never let ’em see you sweat” was said for such an occasion.) I retrace my steps in vain.
There is free BBQ and beer waiting for us, so I convince myself I accidentally locked my key in my trunk and we can handle it later. I hop in the back of my friend’s car and we continue our journey towards lunch.
Two hours later we return to the scene of the lost key, belly’s full of BBQ and s’mores. A man with a glorified coat hanger greets me. His name tag says “AAA” which I find to be an odd name, but he’s here to help!
He breaks into my car within a minute. We pop the trunk. My car has decided to play a one note symphony while my friends and I rummage through my trunk to find the key.
Had I had my key with me, this was the perfect time to push the PANIC button. My key wasn’t on the ground anywhere. It wasn’t where I convinced myself I had left it. Where could it be?
It was time to call for backup. My friend AAA had given me his card and said I could get a new key for $200. This sounds like a bad investment. But when my car is stranded (and might not make it through the night) it seems to be my only option.
As I press the “Call” button to order a new key, a certain girl shouts at me from across the street. She had still been looking for my key.
“Scott. I found your key!” she shouts.
“No you didn’t,” I say to myself. She was looking inside of a trash can that I had already checked. There was a shiny piece of foil that looked like part of a key, but wasn’t.
“Scott. Your key is in here. I see it!” she shouts.
This girl is not one to shout. And this second shout had a certain conviction in it. A certainty that she had found exactly what we were looking for.
I dash to the industrial trash can and lift it high over my head with one arm and dump it over. (OK, not really. My mind tries to be too impressive at times. REWRITE:) I saunter to the trash can while she’s digging through it. (see, that first sentence was much stronger and maybe borderline romantic. Perhaps I should embellish more often.)
She scrapes the key out onto the ground. I lift it up in joyful disbelief. Part of me was bewildered, because I ALREADY LOOKED IN THERE. Once I got over my brief second of pride shattering, the joy spilled out. This girl had just spent an hour looking for my key, got in a trash can to claim it, and saved me $200!
That day a few of us went home and told the story of the lost key. But none of us talked about how terrible the key was for getting lost. None of us talked about how terrible I was for losing the key. We all told our friends a story of the one who never gave up looking for the key. We spoke about the one who sought the key out, and found it in the messiest place. And we spoke of the one who rescued the key from the trash, and restored it to it’s true purpose.
Later that day I thought about it on a deeper level (as I tend to do with life. It’s a curse, I promise).
You are the key. I am the key. And Jesus never gives up on us. Even when we’re in the messiest places He can rescue us, and restore us to the true purpose that we were made for.