Right after David died last December, we were barely making it through each day. Exhaustion was a constant companion, because of all the emotions that flood you in grief coupled with our baby who was reacting to the stress by refusing to sleep. The entire thing was a shock and nothing could have prepared us for that season. I felt somehow that we had been sucked out of real life and were living some alternate reality even though we could see and interact with seemingly real people. I didn't care to eat. I did want to sleep, but I was determined to use myself up caring for whatever family members needed me. Needless to say, it was hard.
I remember driving through Starbucks for a cup of fuel to keep my eyes open through another day. I was alone and having one of those prayer times that gets ugly and I was furious at God. Even as I tried to affirm my trust in Him, it kept getting tangled up in griping about how He wasn’t making sense and maybe this time He would push us too far, strain us too much for us to remember His love. “Are you hearing me? Do you care how hard this is? This isn't right!!! We shouldn't have to be going through this! How are you going to take care of us now?”, I heart-screamed through tears, sitting alone in that drive-through, hoping to run myself dry before I got back to the family so I could be strong enough to keep the wheels turning.
I thanked her and barely cleared out of view before the tears flowed anew. At first blush, free coffee seemed a flippant response to my strong emotions. I didn't want free coffee; I wanted a big rewind button for a do-over so that right about now, my father-in-law could be telling us what he planted in the garden this year. Yet even with the sardonic laugh catching in my throat at the ridiculously insignificant nature of free coffee, I was struck deeply by the truth that God can step in wherever He darn well pleases and who am I to question what He deems good.
And all at once, I realized something:
God doesn’t owe us a big picture explanation. He just doesn't.
He promises His presence and walks alongside us in our daily moments, but never has He guaranteed that we would understand life. Trust isn't based on understanding, but knowing someone's character enough to continue along the same path when you absolutely have no clue what's going on. If I am going to trust Him, I can't demand an explanation. If I am going to acknowledge Him as God, I can't act like He answers to me.
Even though He owes me nothing, He chooses to be with me. Like a mother whose kisses for the cut on her child’s hand are actually for the heart of the child, giving me a really big latte wasn't a brush-off to the big things I was yelling at Him about, an attempt to pacify my tantrum. It was a gentle redirect back toward what was within my grasp. It was as if he stroked back my hair, wiped my tears and said, “Just today. Just get through today. I’m right here and all of you will be alright.”
I still can't think of that moment without crying. That in the face of unexpected, crushing, painful loss, God's answer to me was to show me that He could be found. We were grappling with the very new feeling of separation from a father, and my Father joined me in the drive-thru. In that moment of feeling unseen enough to let loose, I found out that He was right there, seeing me. And in a season of feeling like we were alone in the face of things too big to deal with, I realized how not alone we were.
It was just a cup of coffee and easily written off as a holiday thing people do. But that cup of coffee was something I needed, and who's to say that God doesn't just as willingly provide those little daily things, even if He isn't going to explain why the bigger things seem all kinds of screwed up.
Here’s your takeaway: Little things really do count. You never know when your small, easy kindness to a stranger is a heart-poundingly significant answer to the question rattling around in their spirit.