by Wayne Geiger
Keys are a necessary evil. On one hand, they represent power and control. Keys allow and restrict access. On another level, carrying too many can be bulky. Losing your keys can be traumatic.
It was an unusual day to say the least. I was officiating a funeral and a wedding on the same day. The funeral was in the morning and the wedding in the afternoon.
My wife was helping out with the wedding which was at the church. She needed access to the church while I would be at the funeral and asked, “Can I borrow your keys to the church?”
As a control freak, I swallowed hard and tried to maintain control. If she had asked for one of my kidneys, I would have quickly obliged and pulled out a pocketknife. Giving up my keys meant giving up control and access.
I reluctantly agreed and turned over the keys. No words of caution needed to be shared. “It will be fine,” I reminded myself.
Later that afternoon when I got to the church, my wife, who was in full wedding decorating mode, caught me in the hall and exclaimed, “Tell me that you saw your keys and grabbed them.”
“No,” I said, cautiously, hoping she was just playing. I could tell by her eyes she wasn’t playing. “Please tell me you didn’t lose my keys” I pleaded.
In defense she said, “I don’t know what happened to them. I know I had them, but then, I accidently dropped some stuff, but then later I could not find them.”
As a pastor, and one who shares biblical advice to couples, on occasion, this was an opportunity for me to show grace and mercy, and to practice what I preach. This was not the time for “I knew it” or “I told you so!” That never solves anything and leads to more despair.
For the next several hours, I internalized by emotions, but could think of nothing else but the keys. I prayed, “Lord, you know all things. Please reveal where my keys are.”
Although we had scores of people searching the premises, they were nowhere to be found. As it grew later and later, I began to panic as lost keys might mean a host of other problems including the possibility of having to rekey the premises.
The wedding ceremony was beautiful, and thankfully, my mind was focused on the event. But, by the time of the reception, they still were not found.
In true Indiana Jones-like fashion, I continued my search leaving no stone unturned. I decided to enjoy the reception with the wedding party, my wife, and now my five-year-old grandson who came to stay the night.
As the reception began to wind down, it was agreed upon that I would take our grandson home and my wife would help the breakdown crew put stuff away and begin the cleaning process. She assured me that when things got picked up, she would probably find the missing keys. I appreciated her optimism. That’s what I figured too.
At about 10:20 PM, she came home exhausted and said, “Okay, can you go make sure everything looks good?” Her entrance was somewhat anticlimactic. I expected her to say, “Good news! We found the keys!” But, there was no such remark. I had to ask, somewhat sheepishly, “Did you find my keys?” “Nope” was the reply without explanation or emotion.
I headed back to the church and said farewell to the wedding party. I visited every single room that was used, straightened up a bit, and picked up a few small items. Extremely exhausted, both physically and emotionally, I headed for the outside door and my awaiting pillow.
Unfortunately, my forward progress was halted as I noticed one room that had a few empty boxes, an overflowing trashcan, and some loose trash that needed to be thrown away. There was also a dustpan and broom.
Although there were probably two loads, like the typical man, I decided to do it in one trip. With both hands and arms full, I headed for an external door to the dumpster. I reminded myself, “Make sure to prop the door open or you’ll be locked out.”
I tightly clutched the items in my arms and hands and found a small piece of wood that I could use to block the door open. I was so proud of myself that, like a multitasking soccer player, I was able to position the block with my foot between the door and frame without setting anything down.
Although my mind said, “Be careful,” my exhaustion and unwillingness to expend any additional energy said, “I got this.” Then, almost in slow motion, I was horrified as I watched the door swing shut, pushing the piece of wood out of the way.
I lunged for the door, but it was too late—click. “Are you kidding me!” I said aloud. I thought to myself, “It’s now 10:40pm and I’m locked out of the church with no keys. I have a bunch of trash, a trashcan, and dustpan and broom that need to be put back in!”
Keeping my cool, I just decided to do what needed to be done and I’d deal with it tomorrow. I could bring the extra stuff home. I threw the boxes and loose trash away.
Then, I emptied the garbage can. All of a sudden, I heard a familiar, tingling sound echoing from the dumpster. It sounded like keys. Not just any keys, but my keys! I was able to decipher the message. They were crying out in pain for me to rescue them.
In the darkness of night, dressed in my suit pants and shirt, I climbed onto the side of the dumpster and felt around. I had a renewed burst of energy. Somewhere below me, I heard the jingling sound, but it was too dark to see and I couldn’t find the source.
My fear now was that they would fall to the bottom. I decided to be extremely cautious, but by this point, I was prepared to go dumpster diving to rescue some of my closest friends.
Who knows what other treasures I might find, as well? I needed light. Since I didn’t have my phone with me, I ran home to get my trusty flashlight.
Once back in position, I shined the light into the dumpster and began digging through the trash. And, alas, I saw a metallic reflection, glimmering like the moon. My keys! They were just out of reach. I hunched my body over the side and, like an American Ninja Warrior, I was able to snatch them before they, or I, fell into the abyss.
“Praise the Lord,” I said triumphantly! I felt an immediate sense of relief, joy, and thankfulness. I quickly thanked God for His provision and put the keys in my pocket. I was whole again.
As I thought about the experience, many thoughts and lessons came to mind. First, in case you’re wondering, I will continue to loan my wife my keys without question.
Second, I’m thankful that God gives me opportunities to grow in my faith and cry out to Him for a solution to my problems. He reminds me that I am not alone, nor do I need to be.
Finally, I was reminded that everyone and everything has a home. God is the finder of lost things—both me and my keys.
Wayne Geiger is the Pastor of First Baptist Church Grain Valley, an Adjunct Associate Professor of Speech at Johnson Country Community College, and a freelance writer.