It is the most beautiful thing I own.
It is a diamond and sapphire ring that belonged to my mother. She designed it herself when she was all of 15 years old, taking the gems from a necklace that belonged to her grandmother. When I was little, I used to love to try it on, watch it sparkle, and listen to the story of how it came to be. It was her prized possession, and after she died, it became mine. When I was a young single woman, people told me it looked too much like an engagement ring, and would scare off potential suitors. I didn’t care. I wore it every day, just as she did, until I got married, when I ran out of ring fingers.
I still keep it close at hand and wear it occasionally. I wear it when the deep blue sapphires compliment my outfit. I wear it when I just want to feel her near. Like the day when I thought I’d “bring Mom to church with me” by wearing her ring.
Only it wasn’t in my jewelry box. It wasn’t in my jewelry drawer. It wasn’t in my secret hiding place. It wasn’t anywhere I looked.
I have rarely felt such panic. Yes, the ring was valuable from a purely monetary point of view. But my panic was because I lost something irreplaceable, something no amount of insurance coverage could compensate me for. It was the only tangible thing that connected me to my mother and I couldn’t imagine living without it.
I emptied the jewelry box over and over again, hoping that it would peek out from a corner and all would be well again. I looked for clues and rehearsed when and where I had last seen it. I was inconsolable. It felt as if I had lost my mom all over again.
And compounding the grief was fear. How on earth could I lose something so precious? How could I just forget where I put it? Did I accidentally throw it away? Was this evidence of some early cognitive decline? Did someone steal it?
Grief and fear drove me to prayer. I begged God to reveal to me where it was. I pleaded for Him to restore it to me. I wondered why God, who knew what this piece of metal and stone meant to me, could withhold it from me.
Days went by and it remained missing. I began to consider that it really was gone, and I began to pray differently. I still prayed that if God wanted me to have this thing in which I placed so much value, so much of myself, to please reveal it’s whereabouts to me. And I also prayed that if He really wanted me to go on without this touchstone, to please help me in my grief.
This is the great tension, the great mystery of prayer. I believe that God wants me to bring my life to him, in all its messiness. He wants me to come to Him with my requests, sorrows, and questions. Prayer is not a pointless performance; God does “answer” prayer.
But at the same time, He expects me to come with humility, with surrender, with a willingness to release the outcome into His hands. The most famous example of this is Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane:
“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.
This is one of the most challenging things about prayer. We ask in hope, but we receive in submission.
And so I prayed my paradoxical prayer. “Lord, help me find it. Lord comfort me in my loss.”
This new prayer allowed me to try on for size the idea that this ring was gone from my life, just as the woman who wore it was. Don’t get me wrong — I still hated the idea. But I felt an unexpected peace believing that God would help me through my grief.
I didn’t believe that when my Mom died. I was not a believer at that point in my life, and if anything, her death just reinforced the idea that if there was a God who could allow this kind of suffering and death, I wanted no part of Him. And so, I lived through her death and through a cascade of losses that followed utterly alone in my mourning.
Could it be that God was giving me another chance at it? Is it possible that in re-creating that loss, He was saying “Let me comfort you this time”? It certainly felt that way. One thing I’ve learned about God is that no hurt is too deep or too old for Him to heal it. And so He did.
And yes, in due time He did restore my precious ring to me. Its return did bring me great joy. But I do not hold it as tightly as I once did. I do not cling to it so desperately, as if its loss would be catastrophic. I still wear it occasionally, but it is no longer a reminder of what I’ve lost. I look at it and think about how God redeems and God restores.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort”
(2 Corinthians 1:3)