It was a Brown family vacation to God’s Country, the Tennessee mountains, the highlight of which was gem mining. All 9 of us went with varying amounts of excitement and expectation.
I was looking forward to the day. There is nothing I like more than mud…and the possibility of gems. My niece Allison was into “jewels” at the time. My cynical father who stood by talking with the gem-mine owner—arms crossed, watching—accused them of “salting” the mine.
That day, we found lots of jewels…rocks. My youngest niece Courtney even found a sapphire.
As we all got ready to leave, my sister and nieces stood whispering in a huddle off to the side. Then they came to me in one determined, grinning group. They had decided to give me the sapphire—to have it cleaned, polished and cut.
It was a tiny sapphire that I later had made into a pinky ring.
It was beautiful and I cherished it.
I wore the sapphire ring one day. The next morning, when I went to put it back on, it was gone. It wasn’t where I had left it in the low catchall tray by the bathroom sink. It wasn’t in the jewelry box where it belonged. I frantically dumped out every possible drawer and container—big and small—of make-up, toiletries, earrings, and dirty clothes. I even shook out the bathroom rug and towels. Eventually, with resignation setting in, I peered down the sink with a flashlight. I searched for 30 minutes before I had to leave for work. I even sent up a few “God, help me find this ring!” prayers. And when I returned at the end of the day, I went through it all again. And again…for three days.
The ring was gone.
I became convinced that the ring fell down into the sink and was washed away. I imagined it floating in darkness on the top of a wave of not-so-clean water, farther and farther away from our house, down the street and out alone into the world. I imagined my three nieces, years later, sorting through my things after I was dead and gone, and wondering, “Now where is that sapphire ring?” I counted on their short memories.
Two weeks passed. I had given up hope. Life moved on.
That Sunday, I was having a spiritual pity-party. (I’m quite good at all manner of pity parties.) I was then reading Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, and read my self-assigned chapter for that week.
She wrote and I read:
“Remembering that God is my source, we are in the spiritual position of having an unlimited bank account. Most of us never consider how powerful the creator really is. Instead, we draw very limited amounts of the power available to us. We decide how powerful God is for us. We unconsciously set a limit on how much God can give us or help us. We are stingy with ourselves. And if we receive a gift beyond our imagining, we often send it back.”
I felt the truth of Cameron’s words. As far as I was concerned, God had turned his back, walked away from me and moved on to “bigger, better and more extroverted pastures.” Or maybe he went on vacation to the Bahamas. Not only did God not act in my best interest, I thought, he didn’t even see me at all. He was both powerless and uninterested. I felt the conviction of Cameron’s words—I was doubting and distrustful.
Those words and that struggle were inside my head as I walked into the bathroom to get ready for church. What happened next is hard to describe. I found myself almost “guided” by something or Someone…as I went straight to a small (inch by two inch) drawer for no reason…opened it…and drug my pinky finger through the earrings, watching in disbelief as I picked up the missing sapphire ring on the tip of my finger. It was in plain sight, lying on top.
I gasped and rightly said out loud, “Thank you, God.”
I heard God laughing with delight. I heard God’s voice saying, “See, look what I did! Just for fun. Just for you.”
It was a tiny miracle.
The cynic in me (I am, if anything, my father’s daughter) reasoned that the ring must have been there along. But I had changed earrings several times in those weeks, dumping all of them onto the bathroom counter and sorting through them pair-by-pair.
The ring was not there…and then it was. It was almost magical. It was God showing off. More than that, it was God showing me, in a small way, his attention, power, care and love…in the very midst of my doubt and distrust.
But even with all this, since then, I often check my jewelry box for the sapphire ring. To make sure it hasn’t disappeared. “O you of little faith?” (Matthew 8:26). You’d think I’d learn. It’s a good thing God loves me anyway.