In his charming book Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps, poet Ted Kooser tells the story his Czech neighbors recite about what God does to make a poor man happy. “To make a poor man happy God arranges for the man to lose his mule, then after a while, find it again.”
There is a dynamic in play when we learn what we thought was so turns out to be nothing. Here’s my Lumunos/Facebook friend Susanna’s take: “The MRI that comes back clean. The 3am beeping carbon monoxide detector that just needs batteries. The child who walks in late and just forgot to call. Here's to all the somethings that turn out to be nothing.” The mule is not lost after all.
Sometimes the lost mule takes the form of reclaimed time. Last week I looked at my calendar and saw that I had missed the deadline for this blog – by 3 days. I felt terrible. But after a closer look, it became obvious that I had been working on taxes and had left my calendar turned to February 2012. After flipping to the proper year and seeing that my deadline was still a week away, I literally felt physical relief.
In John 10:10 Jesus says “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” I am too willing to turn over my serenity to that thief by forgetting the second half of the verse. The mule is lost or the deadline seems to be missed, and I become anxious and afraid. I forget that Jesus comes offering life better than we can imagine.
The “Bohemian Alps” are in Nebraska and if you know Nebraska you are aware that it’s a tall tale to consider them even small foothills. Alps they are not. Good wisdom comes from low places. It’s not a tall tale that it feels so much better to remember and believe what is promised.