“It will show up,” is my standard line after something has gone missing in our home. My favorite baseball cap, my son’s action figure, my cell phone. Some things require a bit more intense intervention, like, well, my phone. But for others, I have learned to stop searching and trust that one day, without any effort at all, we will stumble upon the hidden treasure. We found the Lego Batman buried under the hood of the toy dump truck. My baseball cap, behind the hamper. My car keys, in the preschool teacher’s holiday gift bag.
Just the other day my son yelled, “Mama, come!” I ran out of the kitchen and down the hallway, practically overtaking his outstretched arm. In his hand was the thin silver ring, less than a half-centimeter wide that had slipped between my fingers and gone missing for weeks. The necklace was a gift from my nephew, and without the silver contrast the other two rings came up lacking. Seeing my look of amazement, my son exclaimed: “Mama, now your day will end happy!”
I wish that everything I trusted led to such happy endings, but a new, promising relationship went missing last year. And in response, I find myself trying to build a deeper kind of bond with the divine, the kind that trusts in one’s daily bread, that lives with a deep sense of assurance that what we need will show up. I have known this grace in many areas of my life, but in my age-old need to share my life with someone, other than my six-year-old son, I rarely experience it. I no more imagined my life as a single woman at 48 than I saw myself as married at 24.
Two years ago Matthew walked into my life. Tall with deep brown eyes, he frequented the same coffee shop I did. In between client calls and deadlines, I learned of his divorce and his college-age daughter who called him most mornings before starting her day. He learned of my adoption and my son’s struggle to sleep through the night. “It takes a long time to feel safe,” he reminded me, gently, after I shared the difficulties of my son’s early years. “It takes a long time to feel as deeply loved as he is now.”
His compassion and integrity pulled me in, and over the course of that summer we shared the intricacies of our lives. He was trying to envision a new start, planning to retire early and launch his own business, uncertain of whether he would stay in Chicago or return home to the political aspirations of his family. I was busy trying to parent (not to mention, sleep!) and navigate the ups and downs of my business, all the while hoping to find a more stable way to raise my family. We texted every day and took walks when we could. We talked about God and politics, race and religion, college exams and preschool field trips.
I knew that we were both searching for answers to our own seemingly untenable situations; yet I hoped that we were building something that might endure. I chose not to share anything about him with my family or my son. I wanted our relationship to be mine alone. And it was until Matthew’s life turned inside out again, and he quietly withdrew for months at a time. He reached out that following summer and we reconnected for a while, but his loss consumed his thoughts and the distance between us grew. I eventually stopped hearing from him altogether.
His exit from my life was as unexpected as his entrance—and I no longer expect him to return. To stand in all that hurt and disappointment and still trust that my needs will be met seemed rather daunting at first. Without knowing it, Matthew had unlatched the hold I’d put on my heart, the one that clamped down on any imagined future with more than just me and my son. I didn’t think love was impossible, per se. I just didn’t imagine it happening any time soon, and I wanted to prepare myself for the solo ride.
But unlike past losses in love when I chose to go inward for a time, I want to move forward with a new kind of openness, one that trusts in the faithfulness of God (even if it feels long overdue). My prayers are simple these days, more like mantras: Find me. My needs get met. Everything works out. By way of reply, the sacred has proven to be surprisingly agile at reminding me that what I deem to be possible is nothing more than the limitations of my imagination.
Time and time again, in moments when I have felt challenged, a stranger has ushered in much needed grace. The woman who offered my son and I a ride when we were stuck in a torrential downpour because I forgot the umbrella. The man who carried in my portable air conditioner that was not exactly portable (for me). The Chicago police officer who, in the midst of another season of gun violence toward men who look like my son, renewed my faith in humanity when he bought my son’s birthday cupcakes for no other reason than his birthday was in the same month.
The list goes on and on. It has become my daily bread, my reminder that the sacred is always moving in our lives. I do not understand how God works, nor do I know who my next love will be. But I am learning how to trust that even after all these years, he will show up.