In 1997, my husband, Todd, and I moved to Monterrey, Mexico, to serve orphans and vulnerable children full-time through Back2Back Ministries. Living in a developing country for a long time means you exponentially increase your odds of being robbed. It’s not unusual, and you take extra precautions, but the risk is still there. I say this because it was a ridiculous purchase. As a missionary, I had long carried purses that looked like a combination of army backpack and bohemian sling bag. Why I lusted one day for a purple Coach purse in the window of a Texas outlet is still a mystery to me. That light-lilac suede was so impractical. I didn’t even wear much purple, but I am sure it symbolized something to me about another world I could live in if I wanted.
I was at my son’s soccer game when it was stolen. Someone shattered the window in my car and snatched it a few feet from where I stood. I should’ve panicked about the credit cards that needed to be canceled or the cell phone I could’ve used to call for help or the pictures of my children I carried in my wallet. But I immediately started grieving the loss of the purse.
After making some police reports, I went home and commandeered my nine-year-old daughter’s dress-up purse and used it for the next month, knowing soon I would be flying into the United States and could replace it with something more practical. I vowed never again to the purple purse.
I flew into Cincinnati, Ohio, weeks later and had only one hour before a speaking engagement, so I searched a nearby strip mall to see if I could quickly pick up a new purse.
My only option was a luggage store. I stepped in and saw a rack with cool leather backpack purses, a bit of a hybrid between my earlier choices and the Coach. I had never heard of the brand, but it looked nice and sturdy, so I took it to the counter.
“That’ll be $276,” the lady said, ringing my purchase into her cash register.
My eyes went wide at the price, I muttered, “No, thank you,” and left the store. I didn’t think about it again, as now I was late to my engagement. I pulled into the place where I was meeting the others, grabbed Emma’s ratty purse, and told the Lord I understood my roots. I knew he didn’t value or care about purses, and neither would I.
Finally, the evening’s event was over, and I headed to my mom’s house, where I was staying for a few days. I settled into my childhood room and looked over mail accumulated since our last visit. I’d had a birthday since my previous trip to the States, and I sat on the edge of the bed, reading cards. At the bottom of the mailbag, there was a package from my college friend, who had remembered my birthday and sent a gift to my mom’s house. I thought fondly of her as I opened the box, and then threw my hands to my mouth when I saw what was inside.
It was my $276 leather backpack purse. Exact. Same. One. A flood of thoughts came over me as I held it.
She and I had never exchanged gifts so generous before. She didn’t know about the theft, did she?
Is this for real? God picked this out for me before I wanted it today?
I was so sure he didn’t care about designer purses. I had spent a month disciplining my thoughts so I wouldn’t grieve something as silly as a purse. Yet here he was, reintroducing me to himself all over again. I care about everything you care about, he seemed to say.
That night, before I fell asleep, I thought about all the wasted time I had spent wringing my hands over something God already had in the works to redeem. What if when I didn’t like what was happening (a lost purse, broken relationships, poor health, traffic accidents, unexpected bills) I prayed in anticipation of the Lord’s hand, confident of his sovereignty? What if instead of second-guessing him, my prayers sounded more like Amen. So be it. This happened. It’s all good. I’m yours. Change my heart. Take captive my thoughts. All I have is in your hands. Bless the thief. Dear Jesus . . . ?
In this case, I can stretch and pray for the person who took my purse or remind myself mentally of my blessings. I can stretch and be grateful I wasn’t assaulted or trust for future provision. What do I gain from worry or, worse yet, fury?
That night, I committed to Jesus that I would rest in the God of Amen.
From now on, I would start our holy conversations by anticipating his hand.
“Amen,” I began before any other words followed.