Someone once said you never know that God is all you need until God is all you have. I tested this theory recently during a business trip to Moscow. When I stepped off the plane, I was dragging my suitcase in one hand and clutching the business card of someone I had never met in the other. I couldn’t speak a single word of Russian or read a single Cyrillic letter. I just kept thinking: it’s just me, and God, and the Russian Federation.
Then on day 5, I almost had my laptop stolen. I was headed into a metro station on my way back from a presentation. They had my bag unzipped and their hand in the bag. Of course, I felt absolutely nothing. Luckily, one of the Russian co-presenters was with me and saw it. She physically shoved them away along with a barrage of Russian I probably don’t want to know the translation of. Thank God she was with me. If she hadn’t seen them, I never would have known it happened until I looked down and realized my laptop was gone.
Shortly after it happened, I kicked myself for not paying more attention. I always carry that bag to my front in the city, but I had let it slide down to my side. I was busy talking to the ones I was travelling with, and not paying enough attention to everyone else around us. We were speaking English, so we looked like easy targets. I should have been more careful.
The incident was a good reminder, and I was more conscious of how I carried that bag for the rest of the trip. But, the experience also left me with another realization. No matter how much you try to keep your guard up, there will always be those few seconds that you slip. You release your hold, you glance away, you listen to something else…. We are not omniscient beings. Studies of the human brain have shown that it is not physically possible for us to focus on more than one thing at a time. Even when we think we are multitasking, we are not. It takes us fractions of a second to move from one stimulus to another. As much as we try to look out for ourselves, there are moments when we fail. Fortunately for me that day, I had someone else looking where I was not.
That night in my hotel room I received an email from a friend reminding me that people were praying for my safe trip. I read the words of the short prayer, and the last line nearly took my breath away: “Let her know that You are the one protecting her for Your glory! Amen.”
It was as though God were sending me a reminder, in case I had missed the point earlier. He was there, watching out for me, even in moments when I was not able to watch out for myself. Indeed, as David wrote in Psalm 138:7, though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life. God knew where I was, even half a world away, and He sent me a friend when I needed the help – someone who I had never met before but to whom I now owe a debt of gratitude.
I am returning from my travels at the start of the Advent season, and I am thankful for so many things: the experience, the prayers, the strangers who became my friends in just a few short days. And the lesson of the nearly-stolen laptop, that I think is perhaps quite appropriate for the start of the holiday season. This is a busy time of year – as busy as a Moscow metro station – and there are many different things vying for our attention. No matter how hard we try, we cannot truly pay attention to everything. We cannot do it all, be it all, see it all, have it all. We are designed to focus on only one thing at a time.
But when we focus on the right thing, One is all we need.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matthew 6:33).