Recently, I went on an overnight retreat with a wonderful group of friends. We were up really late and I started telling stories of crazy things that have happened to me. It is one of my favorite things to do. I shared this story with them and thought you might appreciate hearing it, too.
One night in the middle of the night, many moons ago, when I was living as a missionary on the East side of Buffalo in a little old upstairs apartment with my little son, I endured a night of sheer terror.
It all began when I was innocently looking out of the dining room window at a very late hour, sometime close to midnight..which somehow makes my story even more terrifying.
I looked out the window, gazing upon my humble surroundings, when by and by I happened to glance at the ground.
And there, lying in the pale moonlight, in a pool of wet pavement, was something horrifying. Something that I couldn’t quite decipher (despite the pale moonlight). It looked like….a little arm.
It was quite bulbous on one end and tapered thin on the other. It looked bent, like it had an elbow. There appeared to be no hand.
“Where is the hand?” I asked myself, over and over.
Immediately I began to panic, Â hugging my own body with both arms in a large bear hug. I threw myself against a wall and tried to breathe.
After panting for an extended amount of time, I crawled over to the window.
and peeked out of it as if the thing in the driveway had eyes.
I looked down.
It was definitely an arm.
What to do, what to do?! My anxiety was at an all time high.
I began to fervently question God. I do this when things go wrong, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be hearing about that someday when we meet face to face.
“Jesus WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?!?! WHY are you LETTING THIS HAPPEN TO ME?!?! WHY AN ARM IN MY DRIVEWAY??? WHY DID YOU LET THAT BE HERE???”
Then I started to run around in a big circle.
I don’t know why I ran in a circle. It really doesn’t make any sense. But I did it.
Then I grabbed my phone. At the time, I was a missionary at St Lukes Mission of Mercy. I knew what to do! I would call the director, Amy Betros. She always knew what to do in a crisis.
Except that she was always handling a crisis. And by midnight, she was usually fast asleep, trying hard to rest until the next crisis would strike.
Such was the case that fateful night, when an actual arm lay in my driveway.
The phone rang. riiiiing! riiiiing!
And Amy answered. “Hello!” she shouted breathlessly into the phone. People who handle crisis situations must always anticipate an emergency. Especially when their phone rings at the midnight hour.
“AMY!” I cried, in desperate voice. “Amy, I have to tell you something!”
“WHAT?! WHAT?!” she cried back.
“AMY. There is an ARM in my driveway. A small arm. It’s laying there. I don’t know what to do! I CAN’T SLEEP.”
My cries were met with silence. Where was she?!
“Whaa?” she said, in a voice slurred with exhaustion.
“AMY. THERE’S AN ARM.”
“Oh! Yes. Okay. Okay honey. Let’s pray.”
“But I need some help here!!” I demanded. “Can’t you send someone over?!”
Apparently a loose arm out on the streets is not reason enough to get some midnight assistance.
“SHHHHH!” she said. “Let’s pray.”
“Okay,” I said. I waited. And waited. There was no sound. Then…a light snore.
“Huh? Where? Oh. Okay, Hail Mary, full of grace the Lord is with theeeeeeeee.”
“Yeah, yes. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snaaaaares….of …the…”
It was useless. She was fast asleep again, and I was alone. Alone with an arm in the driveway.
I barely slept that night. I tossed and turned, walked around the house biting my nails, waiting for someone to show up and claim their arm. But it never happened.
The next morning, I got my son ready for school. I was too scared to look outside. In fact, I was dreading it. The moment when I would have to send my child out the door to catch his ride was fast approaching.
How could I possibly send him down the driveway when there was an arm out there??
Luckily it never came to that. My friend’s son Dean was working with his construction crew on the first floor of the house I lived in, and it so happened that they all showed up just as my fears were consuming me.
I opened my window without looking down at the driveway. “Dean?” I called. He was on the neighbor’s lawn.
“Hey listen, there’s..uh…something in the driveway..I don’t know what it is, but it looks really weird, kind of like an arm? And I’m afraid to send Joey out there. Can you take a look at it?”
“Sure!” Then after a pause, he said, “Hey, it’s a piece of crap! You want me to caution tape it off?”
I’m sure I don’t need to explain the humiliating nature of his frank assessment or what an absolute ass I felt like after realizing that a mere piece of feces had sent me into an all night panic. Although in hindsight, I must declare that it was an AWFULLY LARGE deposit, and I’d be willing to bet cold hard cash that it didn’t come from an animal.
Needless to say, it was one of the more humbling moments of my life.
My friends roared with laughter throughout my story. They loved it.
Last night, some of them invited me out to eat. I arrived late. I was in the mood for appetizers, and they had ordered several of them. I was pleased to see that a tray of yummy boneless wings was waiting for me. I chatted happily Â with my friends, eating the wings.
Suddenly I looked down and saw this:
Oh, yes. They did. My friend Kelly asked collected this gem AHEAD OF TIME from her mother in law, a lover and collector of porcelain dolls. Then she buried it under my wings before I arrived.
Let me say that again: She put an arm. In my food. Â To traumatize me.
When I saw it, Â the first words out of my mouth were:
A) Oh good Heavens! What have we here?
B) EEEK! How shocking!
C) WHAT THE F*CKIN HELL THERE’S A DAMN ARM ON MY PLATE!!!!
I will let you decide which answer is the correct one. All I can say is thank God we were seated far away from the general population.
But seriously, WHAT THE HELL KIND OF FRIENDS PLAY A CRUEL PRANK LIKE THAT ON THEIR FRIEND?!?!?!
I’ll tell you who: the funniest, most awesome kind of friends..
The arm is a funny little reminder for me that sometimes the way we see things is not the way they really are. A friend of mine who passed away 14 years ago used to say “Things are not always what they appear to be.” She was right.
In fact, what may look like a real-life arm hiding in the shadows might really just be a big piece of crap!
St Paul says it a lot better in 1 Corinthians:
When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
FOR NOW WE SEE IN A MIRROR DIMLY.
Ask God for the grace to see face to face. Don’t be ruled by your fears, your assumptions, or how things appear to be. Remember, it might look like an arm, but….you know the rest:)