Today, we look at Oliver, whose story is so inextricably woven with Ryan’s, and how, despite possessing the same propensity to remain consumed by his past failing, avoided it as a result of his faith. At the same time, Oliver's journey reminds us of how our own narrow-mindedness can blind us to the ways God is at work in our lives, creating crime scenes where they may not even exist.
It's the first place Oliver ran to when Shane placed the damaged letter in his hand---that little coffee shop that, fifteen years earlier, he stepped over to that fateful Saturday, March 24 at around 4pm. Sitting near the window, the street, with the all too familiar mailbox--- long since replaced--- in plain view as he reads the one letter still lost from that day.
This return to the cafe, however, is driven by something other than closure. This time it's triggered by his guilt. Holly leaving him wasn't his fault, but failing to fulfill his duties as a postal carrier was well within Oliver's control. As Oliver revealed to Shane, while trying to atone for his mistake, Oliver discovered his passion for "restor[ing] what was lost." Often that restoration has even resulted in second chances for whomever received those recovered letters---including Ryan Hallet.
What I find so interesting about Oliver’s relationship with this event is how it so clearly demonstrates Romans 8:28, and how God used Oliver’s “mistake,” and all that transpired as a result, including Oliver’s application to the Dead Letter Office, to “work together for good.” It stands in stark contrast to Ryan’s relentless pursuit to do good by his own hand to make up for his “crime,” a pursuit which he openly admitted is never over.
Oliver’s faith has had a profound impact on how he processed, and ultimately moved on from, his perceived mistake.
Furthermore, Ryan is driven to “mak[e] up for” his mistake, subsequently serving others to do so. Rather than focusing on his personal failing, Oliver has been “called” according to God’s purpose to serve others and “restore [to them] what was lost.” Ryan is trapped in an endless cycle of penance, while Oliver has been freed to do God’s work, even though, in the end, both men are making the world a better place. The perspectives are drastically different.
While each man has a “crime” scene, Oliver’s faith allowed him to embrace his mistake in a way that demonstrates his freedom in Christ, allowing him to leave his "crime scene" behind.
When we take a wider perspective, we realize all the little miracles that had to take place in order for Oliver to become the mail recovery expert he is today, all stemming from this one event.
Ryan had to meet and fall in love with Maddie, have a falling out, get into the accident, write the letter, and not only drop it in the mailbox along Oliver's route, but do so at the same intersection where Dale Travers took her break. If Dale hadn't been taking Ryan to confess, the clown would not have had the chance to park in front of that mailbox, let alone in such a way that would cause his supplies to jostle about such that the helium and dry ice interacted. Not only that, but this had to be the one time Oliver chose to loiter rather than continue with his duties long enough for the aforementioned events to transpire.
Had any of these things played out differently, who knows how long it might have been before Oliver's path crossed with the dead letter office? His guilt--- though I would also like to think it a sense of duty---prompted him to join the taskforce charged with putting the pieces back together. And it was through that process of restoring what was lost that Oliver found his true passion and purpose in life.
And yet, fifteen years later, Shane tries to compliment Oliver on his gift for restoration born of these events, to which he replies, "If it wasn’t for me, that letter would have been delivered right on time," completely missing God's "mysterious ways."
I wonder how often our narrow-mindedness as human beings can cause us to make crime scenes out of what should be places of celebration. What a blessing to find your life's purpose and passion amid what Oliver himself would consider chaos and anarchy!
God even had a sense of humor in how He came to reveal it. How much more out of the ordinary did it have to be for Oliver to see that God was clearly at work?! How was a clown upending the life of someone so orderly not enough?
Then again, it's easier to see as a point of analysis rather than as a concept at work in our own lives, which is why we should take a second every day to see the ways God broadcasts his presence. We should be compelled to go back and see if we've incorrectly labeled a past event or decision a mistake. What truths and connections might be made, only to realize they weren't really mistakes at all?
His journey also reminds us that our mistakes---real or perceived---are just as much part of God’s plan for our lives as our outright successes. Our faith allows us to instinctively embrace this truth, though we often forget to trace these lines of connection for ourselves. When we do make the connections, however, we allow ourselves the opportunity to see God's "mysterious ways" at work in our own lives.
When we lose that focus, we can become like Ryan, lost in the haze of guilt and an inability to forgive ourselves, unable to live our lives to their fullest.
Connecting The Dots,