After my dive into the depths of invisibility and lack of purpose last week, I decided to run away from home. Buh-bye. See ya.
Actually, my weekend getaway had been planned for a while. Fortunately for everyone, it fell upon this particular weekend after one extremely long, exhausting, emotionally draining week. My freshman pot-luck roommate, Holly, and I run away from home once a year. We name-our-own-price for a luxurious hotel room on Priceline, meet in Austin, and hit the outlet malls, the restaurants, the movies. Most importantly, we sleep – and since both of us are slightly germaphobic, we rely on Priceline to provide us with a 4-star room with fancy white bedding.
Which I’m sure has something to do with the carpeting in our first apartment. Four long-haired girls in one apartment with navy blue carpet. Our floor looked like it was covered in small, furry animals, which obviously did not scare the rabid bat stuck in our fireplace. But that’s another story.
I backed out of my driveway on Friday afternoon with a huge sigh of relief and temporary freedom. I considered not coming back, but jail didn’t seem like a viable alternative. Although in jail, I wouldn’t have to drive anyone anywhere…
Over Mexican food and margaritas, we vented our frustrations in a way only someone you’ve known for more than twenty years can understand. Holly sympathizes, laughs, rolls her eyes, and indignantly scoffs at all the right moments. And I do the same.
After a movie and a restful sleep, we drove to Mecca – also known as the San Marcos outlet mall. I believe there were a few operatic hallelujahs during our descent. San Marcos houses our favorite stores: Vera Bradley, Soma, and Ann Taylor – each offering red-lined price tags that make my heart all aflutter.
We made a beeline for our good friend, Vera, since she offered us an additional 30% off her already-slashed prices on retired patterns and styles. After two hours, I sternly confronted my oldest pal: “WE HAVE TO LEAVE. NOW! BEFORE I FIND ANYTHING ELSE TO BUY.”
She laughed at me and moved farther away from the cash register, so I was forced to keep shopping. Curse her.
Finally we completed our Vera expedition and stood in line for appropriate payment – which, even with the steep discounts, could induce a stroke. I whipped out my phone, logged into my email, and pulled up a coupon that would deliver me from a stroke to a mere fainting spell. While Holly sacrificed a purified goat for her new Hipster, I transferred my belongings from my old Vera to my new Vera – though she finished her payment before I finished my transfer, so I shoved everything into the shopping bag, and we walked to her car to stow our abundant purchases.
“I wanna take a picture!” Holly exclaimed. So she pulled out her phone.
Either I wanted my own documentation, or out of habit, I needed to check my email and Facebook feed – so I reached into my brand-new, fabulous Vera purse to pull out my phone.
Which was not there.
Along with my right arm.
I rummaged through my new purse, my old purse, the shopping bag. No phone.
We went back to the store, thinking I left it on the counter after showing the salesgirl my coupon. It wasn’t there either.
We went back to the car. Still not there.
We went back to the store. Nope.
Holly called my phone several times, thinking either we would hear it ring or the loser who swiped it would answer. No such luck. The salesgirl took my name, the description of the phone, and Holly’s cell number, and she promised to call if it showed up.
I sighed. What can ya do?
Go to Soma, that’s what.
So we went. I collected a large pile of pajamas and dresses and whatnot – all priced to induce bamboo cotton euphoria – and stepped into the dressing room. I’ll finish trying these on, I thought, then I’ll use Holly’s phone to call Michael. Ugh. He’s gonna kill me.
I have an app on my laptop called “Find my iPhone.” I’ve never used it, but it’s a GPS-enabled feature capable of the obvious. I didn’t know if it would show a map of the Austin area or a bathroom outside of the food court, but I figured Michael could give it a shot. After he shot me.
God, I thought, You are the God who sees. You see me. And you see my phone. Can you please show me where it is? Please? I promise I’ll rein in my collection of pajama pants. I really need my phone.
“How ridiculous,” I almost said out loud. “Like God has nothing better to do than uncover my stupid smartphone. There are children starving in China and human trafficking and funding cuts for schools. Yet I’m standing here in a – WOW! – fabulous purple striped maxi dress…I wonder what shoes I could wear with this?…ummm, starving children. Sorry. Serves me right.”
So I changed back into my denim shorts and tshirt, and I prepared to meet my doom. At that moment, I heard church bells. Sweet, melodic, beautiful church bells.
No, really. That’s my ringtone. My phone was ringing.
Except I couldn’t find it. The noise was definitely coming from my new purse, but I couldn’t see the phone. I dug through the pockets – nothing there – and pulled out my new wristlet wallet – which I bought after the strap of my last wristlet wallet got caught on the windshield wiper lever as I was turning in the middle of an intersection. The strap jammed my steering wheel so that I had to jerk it hard to the left, sending the broken clasp flying across the dashboard, therefore breaking my wristlet. Hence, new wristlet. With new hidden pockets that were now ringing.
Sure enough, in a cleverly camouflaged zipper pocket, which I failed to open twenty minutes earlier, was my phone, flashing Holly’s name across the caller ID.
I looked up at the ceiling and laughed. “Seriously? Now You’re showing off. Thanks.”
El Roi: “the God who sees.” That’s what Hagar called Him. Alone, pregnant, abused, cast out, hopeless – yet He saw her. He rescued her. He breathed life and purpose into her weary soul, and she realized she was not alone.
El Roi showed up at Soma. (Underwear doesn’t embarrass Him.) My ridiculous request wasn’t too small to notice. Last week, He saw the laundry, the chores, the odometer. He saw my heart die – just a little – with every eye that rolled, every word laced with dismissal and disrespect. He saw my frustrated face buried in my hands. He saw it all. And last weekend, as a reminder, He saw my phone. I wouldn’t be surprised if He somehow shielded my eyes from seeing it the first time around, just so He could hear me say His favorite word, the most sacred prayer of all: help. Just so He could show up and show off.
He sees you, too, you know. He sees all the diaper changes, all the dirty dishes, the spills and the shouts. He sees your car keys. He speaks peace over the shrieks and cries, he fills the lonely silence of an empty house. He is present in your joy and your grief. El Roi is also Emmanuel: God with us.
He’s waiting to surprise you, too. Whisper for help. Listen for the church bells. Close your eyes and breathe in the awareness of His presence.
He just might show up in a most unexpected way.