Have you ever found yourself bumping up against the beautiful right in the middle of the bad? Suddenly realizing that your eyes have been opened in a divine way that allows you to catch just a fleeting glimpse of how God is always working even when we are so stupidly ignorant of his massive, omnipotent, and loving hand?
That’s what happened in a local Best Buy yesterday. In my memory, I see it from the perspective of almost floating above the scene, suspended in a frozen moment while angels hovered breathlessly around me under the watchful eye of the Author of our stories. I didn’t see them, but I know they were there, and when I look back on that moment, it feels like I really almost can see them as clearly as I felt them. I can’t really even visualize that moment any other way. Only from above. Looking down. As if God lifted me up out of the hard, hard chaos and sadness that plagues the entire world right now, and raised that veil between the worlds of the seen and unseen momentarily, showing me a teensy piece of it all, just for a second, from his side.
Sounds weird, I know. But there it is.
A little background leading up to that moment. Covid and the pandemic have wreaked havoc on the world. Our nervous systems are overloaded and overactive and fried. We are lonely and afraid. Businesses are going under as they struggle through an economic crisis and not nearly enough staff to carry the load. Every loyal employee that shows up at any job, whether it’s making hamburgers, checking out groceries, selling or repairing washing machines, sterilizing operating rooms, or doing surgeries in those sterile rooms, is forced to do the jobs of two or more people. The stress of it all is so evident on the faces and in the body language of these overworked fellow beings. And if you’re lucky enough to get someone to answer a phone, that stress is even relayed across the distance through the voice on the other end.
For five months, we have been trying to get Sears to honor the service agreement we bought for our washing machine. Hours of sitting on hold, only to be disconnected and forced to start the calls over again; weeks of waiting for ordered parts and an opening to have them installed, only to discover that the wrong part had been ordered, or that something else wrong in the machine caused the new part to fry as soon as the machine was started again, etc. etc. etc. The agreement says they are supposed to replace it now, but it became clear last week that this is never going to happen. Sears is just one more business that is on the verge of folding, and they don’t have the resources or energy to even care about the customer as they are fighting for survival themselves. We were helpless, and blasting the overworked employee on the other end of the phone would never have helped anything. We had no way to force Sears to honor their agreement, and no way to replace the machine ourselves.
Then we were blown away when a family we know and have been praying for, a family who has been going through indescribable pain and struggles for five years now, bought us a brand new machine from Best Buy so we could stop fighting with Sears and get back to the important things in life. It will be delivered on Monday, and we can’t wait!
We have to have two machines to manage the fifty loads of laundry we do each week, and limping along for five months with only one machine, has been harder than I can describe, and I won’t even try. But we were ecstatic over this news.
Then two days after the news that a new machine had been ordered, our remaining washing machine died. Now we had no washing machine, but still fifty loads a week of dirty laundry. Back on the phone with Sears (who actually answered after a shorter-than-usual hold time), and the most ridiculous exchange you can possibly imagine followed, resulting in an instant realization that they will never, ever repair or replace this machine, either.
Erin and sisters got to work toting loads of laundry to our neighbor’s house so we could use their machine (we have the best neighbors here in our little community!). I cried, and Scott and I prayed for help and answers. Then yesterday, we were once again blessed beyond words when my mother made plans to buy us a new second machine.
We wanted to see if there was a way to have both machines delivered together on Monday, but there wasn’t even a phone number to call and ask (an increasingly common problem with businesses right now — bury those phone numbers so deep that no one can find them on your website), so Scott and I decided to stop in at our closest Best Buy store to talk to them in person.
Best Buy allows well-behaved dogs in their store! Did you know that? At least this one does. So we took Ellie along as we had to run next door anyway to pick up more of her favorite peanut butter and banana treats, and because we want to continue keeping her socialized as we try to hold onto all of the amazing training she got from 4 Paws for Ability before she came to be part of our family.
The second we walked into the store, we sensed the tension in the air. Strained smiles on the faces of the few employees present as they tried to be polite and address each customer’s need, and haggard-looking shoppers who really did seem to be trying to be respectful as they waited for their turn. I was struck one more time by how much our world has changed over the past couple of years, and wondered for the billionth time where we go from here.
We took our place in line at customer service, everyone obeying the six-feet-of-distance rules pretty well. And Ellie, being the good, good girl that she is, parked herself at our side to wait along with us. Occasionally she would stretch her neck out a bit to offer a passerby the chance to pet her head if she seemed to sense they needed that. And some did.
Finally, it was our turn. Jordan, the young man behind the counter, was clearly frazzled but gave us his attention and tried to understand what we were asking his help with. He spotted Ellie and asked her name and if it was okay to pet her. We told him she would love it, so he reached out to touch her head as she sweetly lowered it for his fingers to reach. Then he went back to his computer, trying to pull up our account and see if he could figure out how to get both machines delivered on Monday. As he typed, occasionally lifting his head to tell other customers that he would be with them as soon as possible, I could almost feel how high his heart rate was, and the tension in his body practically vibrated the air around him. We thanked him for being so patient and kind and asked how he was holding up under the staff shortage. He dropped his head and expressed his frustration quietly, but honestly, saying that it’s very, very hard.
As Jordan was typing and talking to us, Ellie quietly, almost imperceptibly, moved around the end of the counter and positioned herself by his side. We have been told that, all her life she, like many dogs, has had an uncanny ability to sense when she is needed, and we’ve witnessed this many times ourselves since she became our dog ten months ago.
Jordan noticed her sudden appearance at his side, and reached down to pet her. Then he moved both hands from his computer keyboard to her head and face, and we literally watched the tension drain out of his body. He smiled as he petted her. And time stood still in that little corner of the world as we all three took slow deep breaths together, united for a matter of seconds in our stress and sadness and uncertainty about life and the future of the human race. We all released little bits of our tension with each exhale in that God-ordained moment.
That didn’t just happen. I know that with every fiber of my being. That moment was planned. The timing of it all was perfection, and God wanted to make sure I didn’t miss it. It was such a beautiful gift as I felt his presence and his love and his whispers that it’s going to be okay.
No matter how out of control everything feels on all the levels, this God who created and loves us and made sure that dogs were part of this world, is working his perfect plans behind that veil that blocks our ability to see the supernatural. In the big moments and events, and in the small ones that we usually don’t even notice.
After those few seconds, the world around us came back into focus and began to move again, and Jordan looked into Ellie’s eyes and said, “I needed this so much today. She has made me feel so much better. I really do feel calmer and better now. Thank you so much, Ellie.” And we went our separate ways, a little less afraid, a little less frazzled, a little more filled up, and a little more connected to those around us.
Thank you, God for this incredible dog. For these new washing machines that will both be delivered on Monday. For showing us how to live together as brothers and sisters in these troubled times. For reminding us that you are still holding all of us, and that we must sometimes look around us, see your hand at work, and breathe.
I wish I had asked for permission to snap a picture of Jordan and Ellie together. I did at least get this picture of our girl before we left the store. I want to remember this heavenly encounter always.