Get Lost

I gave my sister-in-law a scarf this Christmas—a beautiful silk scarf I had bought for her at Grace Cathedral: a print of the Rose Window, in deep blues and reds.

After she thanked me for it, she said, “Did I ever tell you about the time I was living near Sacramento and agreed to meet my sister at Grace Cathedral, so we could spend the day together? I got up very early in the morning, before sunrise, and went to the station to get the bus to San Francisco. I rode along sleepily in the dark for a while, but eventually the sun came up—and I realized that I had forgotten my glasses!”

“Oh, how awful!” I exclaimed. She is very near-sighted, as I used to be before LASIK surgery, and I knew very well what a disaster this was. To arrive in a big city and not be able to see anything! As it happens, Grace Cathedral is an extremely large building, and she found it—but she couldn’t find her sister in the crowds. All she could do was wander around, hoping her sister would find her.

Was she lost? She knew where she was, but she couldn’t see anything clearly. In fact, she was in the right place, but it didn’t do any good to know she was in the right place if she couldn’t see the faces of those around her. Like many of us, she was lost in place. We know where we are, but our vision is weak and we can’t seem to focus on the really important stuff right under our noses. I like the way Barbara Brown Taylor puts it: “the reason so many of us cannot see the red X that marks the spot is because we are standing on it” (xvii).

This week’s lesson is entitled, “Escape from the World’s Ways.” It uses a travel metaphor—escape—to think about the spiritual life. I have decided to tweak the metaphor and instead examine getting lost as a way to consider how to have a meaningful relationship with God in today’s world.

Being lost can be good exercise. Taylor suggests that we “stop fighting the prospect of getting lost and engage it as a spiritual practice instead.” She suggests that Abraham and Sarah were chosen by God because of their willingness to “set off on a divinely inspired trip without a map, equipped with nothing but God’s promise to be with them” (73). Some of our most interesting and instructive experiences happen because we get lost. Perhaps that’s what faith is: walking with God, but not knowing exactly where the two of you are heading. A kind of lostness, but the good kind. The kind where you are never alone.

I would not wish to suggest that Jesus ever got lost, but he did take a lot of side trips, responding to someone who touched his robe in desperation or called out from beside the road, going home with someone he saw looking down at him from a sycamore tree. Was he lost? He may not have been where he had originally set out for, but he certainly could see clearly the faces of those around him.

Following the Spirit, walking by faith like Enoch: perhaps this includes doing what Jesus did, and allowing a little extra time and flexibility to lose our predictable way and instead steer by the faces we see, paying more attention to the people around us.

“It is a great art to saunter,” wrote Henry Thoreau in his journal. He knew as well as anyone how to wander, focusing on the tiniest details, taking in what was happening that day, in that place. Sauntering seems like a pretty good way to think of this habit of slowing down a little so that you can see a little more clearly, pay a little better attention: And what does the Lord require of you? To do justly and to love mercy and to saunter humbly with your God.

Let’s face it, though. There is another kind of being lost. The bad kind. The kind where it’s not just you who are lost, but indeed ALL seems lost. Where the worst has happened, and you feel completely alone. This is the kind where someone has cancer, or a child has died, or you are facing a life in bed because your muscles no longer do what you tell them to.

Perhaps the first thing to say about this kind of lostness is that no one can tell anyone else how they should feel about it. Advising people to accept that it’s God’s will, or that they should just get over it and be cheerful is not okay. All I know to do for others who are lost like this is to be there. To listen. To pay attention to them, and their own particular feeling of being lost.

And for oneself? Taylor calls this the “advanced practice of getting lost.” Now that I think about it, it seems Jesus did experience this kind of lostness, first in the wilderness, and then on the cross. We can, I believe, take some comfort in the fact that Jesus, too, felt abandoned. That Jesus needed the comfort of angels. Taylor writes that her own experience suggests that the best one can do is “consent to be lost, since you have no other choice. The consenting itself becomes your choice, as you explore the possibility that life is for you and not against you, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary” (80).

Many of us grew up in a culture where being “lost” meant eternal damnation. Parents would do almost anything to ensure that their children were not lost forever, including nagging them about Sabbath-keeping, or forcing them to memorize long memory verses, or punishing them harshly for eating or drinking the wrong thing. You probably know what I mean here.

Maybe it is useful to take back the word “lost,” to reclaim it to mean an opportunity to grow, to pay attention, to experience something new, and to hold God’s hand tightly all along the way. If we think of it this way, then the verses brought out in this week’s lesson offer some pretty good advice about sauntering with God: “Stay alert” (Eph. 6:18), “let the Spirit control your mind” (Rom. 8:6), and “I will… give you a tender, responsive heart” (Ez. 36: 26).

I find I must end with Thoreau, from his essay, “Walking”:

So we saunter toward the Holy Land, till one day the sun shall shine more brightly than ever he has done, shall perchance shine into our minds and hearts, and light up our whole lives with a great awakening light, as warm and serene and golden as on a bankside in autumn. (632)

Happy Trails.

Works Cited

Taylor, Barbara Brown. An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith. New York: HarperCollins, 2009.

Thoreau, Henry David. Walden and Other Writings. New York: Random House, 1937.

Photo from Pexels

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8528
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Once upon a time I was in love with New England - the golden autumns and country lanes. I was thrilled to learn that Walden Pond was just down a few roads from the school, as I had devoured anything Thoreau. One day I found my way to the pond, and the stony remains of the foundation of his cabin. I strolled along the pond and tried so very hard to relive what I had read. - The pond smelled of sulphur and had a yellow ring along its shore. The path to the cabin was just a path, and the rocks of the foundation were just rocks. I realized then I couldn’t replicate someone else’s "Walden experience’. That realization has come other times and other places that I had built up in my mind as i read about someone else’s personal journeys.

What’s the saying, “Life happens while you’re making other plans.” I guess it’s sort of like “being lost”. You suddenly realize that while you’re planning your next move on a well-layed-out direction, you find you’ve wandered onto a different path. That’s scary and exciting at the same time.

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That’s what I thought when my path took a detour. I found myself on a road I hadn’t anticipated. A road I wasn’t prepared for. Is that road I am on filled with potholes of disconnecting? Am I a nostalgia longing something new? Am I pleased with my sudden lost in a place isn’t the ticket I bought? Inwardly my pounding heart lost nowhere else to go too - but in my loneliness lost in thoughts, my heart fearlessly choosing trust in God that he would light up the dark misty forests with quiet lightening rod. The lost maybe a long one, but I should begin exploring and learning in God’s redemptive light. I hope the real road, the road where I can return to being happy and fulfilled, perchance is up ahead.

The bad news is time flies. The good news is God is the pilot. Who has everywhere else to go for me enriches my beautiful and good and in steep hunger I never afraid to try something new.

Noah the amateur built the ark…

Donald Trump the professional built the Titanic.

“When the speaker shall, in a haphazard way, strike in anywhere, as the fancy takes him, when he talks politics to the people, he is mingling the common fire with the sacred. He dishonors God. He has not real evidence from God that he is speaking the truth. He does his hearers a grievous wrong. He may plant seeds which may strike their fibrous roots deep, and they spring up and bear poisonous fruit. How dare men do this? How dare they advance ideas when they do not know certainly whence they came, or that they are the truth.” SOP

Hey Frank. lighten up. Did you see something about politics in the article?

I was posting a SDA service announcement as I responded to the poster before my post. I hit the wrong reply button.

Hey Barbara, were your parents like this?

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To be found please read about Abraham and his son, then read Ps 22,23,24. Then read Romans 3-8, Then Read Phil. 2: 5-11, Then Read the book of Hebrews. Finally read Rev. 4 and 5. You might add the parable of the lost sheep.

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Get real and try to appreciate the meaning of the piece, rather than taking a thinly veiled shot at the author for not parroting bible verses, or doing systematic theology, or exegesis. Jesus told stories, too.

Frank

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Nancy, interesting that you used the word ‘lostness’ in your article.
It reminded me of this:
http://www.growthingod.org.uk/olethros.htm

Dear gideonjrn and tjzwemer,

You are both friends in conversation in mentorship and learn come to play.

To our Dear Sister’s story journey on ‘Get Lost’. What a beautiful ride alongs with ‘Lost’. It is scary but can bring us to the right place there is such a place secure on Jesus’ shoulder.

WHEN GOD FINDS LOST SINNERS, HE KEEPS THEM SAFELY.

When the shepherd found the lost sheep, he didn’t get out his whip and drive it back to the fold. He put it securely on his shoulders and carried it home. I am not especially fond of artist’s pictures of Jesus, but I do like the one that shows the smiling shepherd with a lamb on his shoulders. He’s holding it by its legs, so that it will not get lost again. As Jesus said concerning His sheep, “I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:28).

I am imperfect I make mistakes I brought out the micro aggression or the macro mentorship in people.

Cheers.

I love reading anything Barbara Brown Taylor writes.