Genie in a Bottle
Sometimes, I long for a dull life. Just a simple, peaceful life where there are no daily crises, no high-drama moments, and no stories to tell. Oh, the bliss. Just a bland, grey life filled with nothing but yawns and cozy cat-stretches . . . this is the existence of my dreams.
My real life, most days, is too far-fetched for even Hollywood to produce. Last Friday was one of those days.
Actually, it all started Thursday, when my lovely 20-year-old daughter—sweet young thing that she is—was thirsty. So while I filled up my gas tank, I told her to run in and get herself a drink, because that’s what good moms do, right? She came back with a Sprite. So far, so good.
The drama started when, about ten miles down the road, she dropped the lid to her Sprite bottle and it rolled under the seat somewhere. She spent a minute or two looking for it before giving up. Okay, no real drama yet, but just hang with me.
We got home from our excursion, unloaded the car, and forgot all about the capless bottle of Sprite in the cup holder. Until the next day, that is.
We had some errands to run in town; first stop—Staples. We’d just pulled into the parking lot, into a front row space, when my daughter squealed, “Mom! There’s a frog in my Sprite bottle!”
Sure enough, some kind of creature peered at me from inside her half-empty soda container. Only, it wasn’t a frog. I wasn’t sure what it was . . . it looked like some kind of drenched alien space being, paddling for its life. Was it a genie? I couldn’t be sure. I rubbed the side of the bottle, just in case. If three wishes were to be had, they were gonna be mine.
That’s when the woman child screams like the she’s in a low-budget horror flick and says, “It’s a mouse! Oh-my-gosh-oh-my-gosh-oh-my-gosh! Mom, get it out!”
People around us stared. I’m pretty sure one lady had her phone in hand, ready to call Child Protective Services. What is the age cutoff for CPS, anyway? I’m asking for a friend.
The conversation went something like this:
Her: Mom! Do something!
Me: What do you want me to do?
Her: Set it free!
Me: In the car? I don’t think so.
Her: Over there, in the grass!
Me: It’s your bottle. You do it.
Her: Ew! Mom, no. (Screams again.) Mom, please. Do something!
Now, in front of Staples there was a table set up with a sign that read Jesus Saves or something like that, and behind that table sat a man who looked very much like he was enjoying the show. All he needed was a bucket of popcorn.
I took the Sprite bottle out of the cup holder, held it at arm’s length, and walked it to the garbage can, which happened to be right next to the Jesus man. I figured the mouse would spill out into the trash and have a smorgasbord of popcorn and candy bar remnants, like Templeton from Charlotte’s Web. “There’s a mouse in here,” I explained to the Jesus man, as if that were the most logical thing in the world I could say. Then I deposited the bottle in the trash.
“Aren’t you gonna set it free?” he asked, grinning like this was the most action he’d seen all day.
“Be my guest,” I said.
That’s when his friend exited the store and sat down next to him, behind the table. Now, this friend was about eight feet tall, had a beard, and reminded me a little bit of Goliath, only friendlier. I don’t know why I felt the need to keep explaining myself, but I did. I gestured to the bottle, which was upright on top of the jam-packed trashcan. “There’s a mouse in that Sprite.”
“Aren’t you gonna let it out?” Goliath asked.
“Go right ahead,” I told him. “I’m not touching it.”
Girl-child and I entered Staples as if nothing out-of-the-ordinary had just happened. The sad thing is that for our family, this really wasn’t that big of a stretch.
We made our purchase and left the store. “Did you let him out?” I asked the Jesus-men.
“Yep,” Goliath said. “He’s one of God’s creatures, too.”
“That may be, but he was trespassing,” I replied, and they laughed. I wasn’t trying to be funny.
Now here’s the thing. Once in the bottle, it would have been nearly impossible for that mouse to escape without help. Not entirely impossible, mind you . . . but it was a lot easier with assistance from the Goliath-man. It reminded me of the Bible verse that says it’s easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven.
What I didn’t know for much of my life is that in biblical times, the Eye of the Needle was a low portal in the city wall. Anyone entering or leaving the city had to go through that gate. Merchants who wanted to enter with a loaded-down camel had a hard time of it; the camel had to be stripped of all its extra baggage. Then it had to kneel down and crawl through on its knees. It was possible, but difficult.
In other words, the camel had to humble himself, if he wanted to get into the city. And the rich man (meaning pretty much anybody here in the U.S.) has to humble himself if we want to become who God wants us to be. I can’t speak for anybody else, but humbling myself has never come easy for me. I was taught to hold my head high and have pride in who I am . . . and yet if I want to live out God’s purpose for my life, I have to strip myself of my extra baggage, kneel down, and crawl.
But like the Jesus-giant helped that mouse the other day, the Holy Spirit helps us. Who’d have thought a drenched rodent could help deliver such a powerful message.
I guess you could call it a mouse-age in a bottle.
“Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God,” Matthew 19:24.