One of my earliest memories involves being lost. I was about 4 years old in a department store with my mom. While I looked at items on a shelf, a group of shoppers came between me and mom.
I couldn’t see her, and I was terrified. I was afraid she’d left me. As I recall, I called out to her.
Mom stepped around the person who was blocking my view and came toward me. It’s OK, she said – I’d never leave you! I was watching you out of the corner of my eye the whole time.
Getting lost is such a universal fear. We dream about getting lost – at school, on campus, at home, at work, in an airport. Those dreams tap into that vulnerable, helpless feeling we experience many times in life.
For instance, we go off to school for the first time and we feel a little lost.
The teenage years – they’re all about feeling lost! We’re creating a separate identity from our parents, but we don’t know yet what that is.
Relationships – even the very best ones – challenge us in ways that make us feel lost at times.
We’re young and trying to choose a path in life and it’s a bit overwhelming, and we feel lost.
A helpless, vulnerable feeling
Parenting is a graduate course in feeling lost. Often, we have no clue what to do next.
We lose a job or have a relationship end or have some health issue, and we feel lost.
We leave the confining theological bubble in which we were raised and start looking for another faith community, but the process is unsettling, and we feel lost.
We put our heart and soul into some project that we’re passionate about and it turns out different than what we wanted, and we feel disappointed and lost.
We’re aging and we see where this is all headed, and we feel lost.
Our parent dies, and we feel totally lost on many levels.
We fall into habits that we know won’t provide the satisfaction and fulfillment we need, and we feel lost.
Getting lost is a common thread in not only our lives but also our faith traditions. Story after story tells of individuals and entire groups getting lost geographically and spiritually.
But our faith traditions also reassure us that in those times of feeling lost, we really aren’t.
God is a passionate finder, a non-stop seeker, determined to be there with us when we feel lost. As the story of the lost son goes, God is scanning the horizon nonstop to catch sight of us, run to us, wrap us in a hug and throw a crazy party that reminds us we’re always rooted in love.
Lost, and now found.
A passionate finder
When I covered the summer Olympic games in Athens in 2004, I wanted to see the Acropolis on my day off. I got a map of the public train system and planned my trip.
I boarded the train a couple blocks from the media village and counted the stops before I had to transfer to the line that would take me to the Acropolis. When I reached the transfer station, I had a problem.
It was a big, bustling station with train platforms all around. I had no idea which one I needed – everything was in Greek. I stood looking at the map in my hands, which was no help.
That “lost” feeling returned.
A middle-aged Greek woman saw my predicament and approached me. She said something I didn’t understand, but I could tell she was trying to help. I pointed to the Acropolis stop on the train map.
“Ah!” she said, smiling. She put her hand on the back of my elbow and gently guided me through the busy station. She walked me up a flight of stairs to an elevated train platform and pointed to the line that would get me where I needed to go.
I said, “Thank you so much!” She said something back, smiled, and went on her way.
I was lost, and now — with her guiding hand — I was found.
Anne Lamott says she doesn’t at all understand the mystery of grace, other than that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it finds us.
Grace is that hand on the back of our elbow guiding us through our current confusion. It gets us where we need to go, even when we don’t know where that is exactly.
It’s also a reminder that when we feel lost and afraid, God is right there, looking out for us and watching us out of the corner of Her eye the whole time.