Debbie Dartt Ministries © 2016
"Smokey the Bear and Other Stuff I've Lost"
One of my most memorable Christmas gifts ever was a little Smokey the Bear stuffed animal. I wasn’t obsessed with Smokey the Bear as a child. That wasn’t why it was memorable. It wasn’t particularly valuable or unique, that’s not why it was memorable. It wasn’t even one of my favorite gifts that I ever received. I didn’t spend more time playing with it than my other gifts. As a matter of fact, I never played with that Smokey the Bear at all. In the chaos and exhaustion of Christmas morning, my little Smokey the Bear doll got scooped up in all the wrapping paper and was thrown in the trash, never to be seen again. Years later, when my mother-in-law heard the story it disturbed her. She felt like there was something missing from my life and she went on a quest to fill that Smokey-the-Bear shaped hole. After several years of searching she found me a new Smokey to take its place. My original doll was small, probably 4 or 5 inches tall, made of cloth with his uniform printed on it. The Smokey that my mother-in-law found was well over a foot tall, plush and had his own hat, shirt, boots and shovel. It is one of the nicest stuffed animals I have ever owned. My mother-in-law’s pursuit of fixing this loss in my early childhood made me love and cherish her even more than I already did.
Until my wonderful mother-in-law picked up the cause of finding me that bear, the only significance that doll had for me was that I never had a chance to play with it. It may not have ever become one of my favorites. It might have ended up on a shelf collecting dust or at the bottom of an already over-stuffed toy box. Or, it might have become a lifelong favorite that I played with until the stuffing came out or that I held onto and cared for until I was able to pass it on to my little girl. The enchantment of that doll was in the loss and un-realized potential.
We have all experienced loss, disappointment, un-realized potential. There have been things that we thought would last forever, or at least until we didn’t want them anymore. There are losses that I mourn, including homes, jobs and friendships that have been left behind. I could fill pages with the list of un-seized opportunities and un-fulfilled dreams. I can get into a deep pit and wallow in my poor-poor-pitiful me’s. As a matter of fact, I did that this morning. But the truth of the matter is that Jesus is in the business of restoration.
In all of my times of loss he has been my comforter, healer and ultimately my redeemer. He has proven himself real through miraculous healing and miraculous patience. When he has allowed loss to happen he has given his peace that passes understanding. And, like with my Smokey the Bear doll, after the passage of time I can look at the things I have lost and see that he has redeemed and restored and given me something better in its place beyond what I could possibly think or ask.
I cling to this promise because he has never failed me: “In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation.” -1 Peter 5:10
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