We arrived in New York for our daughter’s much anticipated twelve-year-old trip with mom and dad, exhausted and ready for a good night’s sleep in a gorgeous hotel. We had big plans to explore the city, but the first thing our daughter wanted to do in the morning was to swim in the rooftop pool. We sauntered up with swimsuits and towels on right after breakfast.
Upon finding lounge chairs, my husband’s phone rang. and his eyes got big.
“This is the manager. I’m so sorry to say this, but we believe your room has bed bugs. We are going to ask you to come to a new, upgraded room immediately. Take only what you have on, and you will follow us to a new room. All your clothes and bags from your old room will go through a special cleaning process, then sent back to your room tomorrow. We are so sorry for the inconvenience!”
My husband must have noticed my face. All my expectations came crashing down. We had waited so long for this trip, and now it was ruined. I teared up. We have no shoes, no clothes; we can’t go out in the chilly night air like this! And gross — bed bugs?! How did this happen!
“We are sending the concierge out to shop for new clothes for tomorrow and tennis shoes. And pajamas. And anything else you need.” So we sat around in our half wet suits and waited. I tried to have a good attitude, but it didn’t work. I was just so disappointed. Finally, the clothes arrived, and we were able to go out to dinner. I prayed a pitiful prayer that God would somehow redeem this trip.
But the following day, I woke up, and one of my eyes was matted shut. You’ve got to be kidding me. This is a comedy of errors! It was swollen and itchy, and I had to call an eye doctor to get a prescription in a city I didn’t know. But we had new outfits and shoes and decided to take to the streets. Nothing is going to stop us from having the trip of our lives — not even my jellyfish-looking eyeball! So we did all the fun things one does in New York City, clocking in 20,000 steps!
Throughout the day, I kept asking my husband if his hips were hurting because he usually complains or walks with a limp with that much walking. “I can’t believe this, but I feel fine! I think it’s these shoes. I would have never bought them, but they’re actually incredible. My hip isn’t hurting at all.”
We both gasped and smiled. For years we’ve known he’s been inching towards surgery but have been putting it off. We’ve tried everything and never thought to switch his shoes. He hasn’t taken those tennis shoes off since, and his hip pain has dramatically decreased!
Our disastrous-but-redeemed trip reminds me of this year — these past couple of years — when expectations of how everything should have gone came crumbling down. Even though we’re past Christmas, I can’t help but think about Mary and how jarring it must have felt when the angel appeared to her suddenly.
And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.
Luke 1:28-29 (ESV)
I can just hear Mary saying, “Um, what kind of greeting is this?!” But God has a different way, a strange way, of showing up. He offers His provisions and care in such a surprising manner, we could easily miss the blessing it might contain.
We look back now on that trip and see God’s surprising provision. He met needs we weren’t even looking to have met. We had big plans, but He had an even bigger plan to heal my husband’s hip — with an incident of bed bugs. (Yes, it’s funny!)
As we enter into this season of reflection and look forward to the future, we can probably conjure up all the ways we want our lives to go differently. But our vision might be clouded, perhaps matted shut with unmet expectations and bitterness. We might not be able to see the ways God has actually been providing for us all along. But this is what I’ve found to the be antidote to see clearly again: We must believe in His goodness towards us. When we look back and find the ways He’s been faithful to us, it helps us look forward to the future feeling less fearful and more hopeful.
I wonder how He will show up for us this next year as we look around and say, Where is God in this surprising turn in my life? Ah, our Emmanuel. God is with us — in the past, right now, and in the future. And His presence is our promise and our hope.Leave a Comment