Today, I’m thankful that I lost my wallet.
Don’t worry. I haven’t lost all of my marbles. At least, not yet.
I lost my wallet sometime between putting on my jeans and lunchtime. Now, a lot happened in that time period, such as walking, going to class, procrastinating. But one thing that I am sure of is that my wallet was in my back right pocket when I left the dorm to go on about my day. And that was the last time that I saw, or felt, my wallet.
Since I don’t buy too many things, or at least, not as much as some people, I don’t draw my wallet out at each social gathering. Usually I’ll wait until I’m lurking near a coffeeshop or bookstore. Or if it’s time to pay for tuition. I do pull out my wallet when it is time to eat, however, and it was at that point that I noticed the wallet was gone. Frustrated, distraught, and not in the least bit thankful, I ran across campus, retracing my steps.
Pacing, I cursed the sky. I thought about how unfair my life is that I should miss a meal and go to class hungry. Tragic, I know. As my feet carried me between buildings and across streets, I think I went through the five stages of grief in all of maybe five minutes. From spirituality to cynicism, I pondered aloud to the powers that be about the purpose and reasoning behind my missing wallet, as life is (of course) centered around myself and myself alone.
Because I was looking for my wallet when I should have been looking at the clock, I ended up being late to class and locked out of the building where the class was being held. So I knocked on the glass pane, pleading for help. The receptionist took pity on me and let me in the building. Once I found the classroom, I made the ever embarrassing walk of shame from the door to a seat. Luckily for me, the entryway was behind the teacher for all to see, and every seat was taken. You might say that I stood out a bit. And I know it sounds crazy, but that is where things turned around for the better.
I started speaking to the professor, which is something that I never do on the first day. Or the first month. But the professor was kind! Instead of mocking me, he asked me my name, and I introduced myself. He told me to join the class, and welcomed me. As I sat down, friends patted me on the back, asking me how I was. A few of them had heard about my missing wallet and wished me a better day.
Afterward, I went straight to the campus safety department to report the missing wallet. Instead of simply filing the report, they gave me a meal card so I could go back to the dining commons and eat again. And I met more people who work here at this school, behind the scenes. People I probably never would have met had I not lost my wallet.
It doesn’t stop there. When I went to the Psychology department to schedule my classes, several of the staff had heard about my missing wallet. After my remaining three semesters were outlined, they offered their prayers and sent me towards people and departments that I could contact about the missing wallet. I got to talking to the staff that I merely pass in the hallways or see in classrooms. And I got to see them not as adults in charge, but rather as fun, glowing, wonderful people. We all laughed about small-town culture. One professor, who I had homework for, went to his car to give me advice for the assignment.
I used to believe in God as a kind of benevolent overseer, perhaps as some sort of cosmic chaperone that checks in on you with a smile and a steady eye, but isn’t too intruding. You never really need Him until something bad happens, like when you get a bad grade in school or until that kid you like turns you down. I guess this makes God a sort of tooth fairy, personal assistant, or something.
But I don’t think of Him in these kinds of terms anymore. To all my agnostic friends, of which I was once one myself, I say one of two things. Either there is no God, and irony peeks its head in the door a bit too much. Or, there is a God who is fully involved in our lives, orchestrating them, listening to us just a bit too closely to teach us about Him and more importantly, about ourselves.
Most of the time, I have a kind of a short temper. When things don’t go my way, I stomp my feet and throw a tantrum like a cranky little child. So, I’ve been praying for patience. Which was both a wonderful and terrible idea. Because as I prayed for patience, God didn’t give me patience. He gave me the opportunity to be patient, in the form of losing my wallet.
This happened to a dear friend of mine recently. He prayed to God to break his heart and bring him closer to Him. God did exactly that, only in the way that he wasn’t intending. God never gives us what we want. He only gives us the opportunity to find the things we need.
Losing my wallet has been anything but a bad thing, though. It’s a bit frustrating, and bit more expensive. But I’ve done something absolutely extraordinary. I’ve been learning how to depend on others! With my wallet, I am sort of in control. I can go where I want and do as I wish, as long as my wallet allows me to do these things. I bask in the illusion of independence, which is, above all things, an illusion. Reality lets me see beyond illusions like these.
I’ve been reading Shane Claiborne’s The Irresistible Revolution, and Shane is obsessed with the idea of losing all our posessions. Which is nice. It works. It’s in the Bible, among many other things that people tend to ignore, like the entire Old Testament. Shane is wacky, but he has a beautiful point. Wealth does not unify us, it divides us. The difference between the rich and the poor is that the rich are alone. My day without a wallet is nothing compared to those who spend months without shelter. But it does hint at money’s ability to separate. It gives us, or at least, stupid old me, a glimpse. A glimpse of what I and countless others need so desperately to understand.
I am thankful for learning how to depend on others. What are you thankful for today?