Ever since they did away with that coiled cord that kept the phone never far from its base, households around the country regularly echoed to the sound of the angry cry, “Has anyone seen the phone?” It’s got worse over the years as mobile phones have become mobile computers with a phone. So much of our lives can be in that phone and so much of our social connections flow through it. I’ve seen reports that people check their phones 110 to 150 times per day, so a lost phone can cause a mild panic and a frantic search for many of us.
But it’s not just phones, they say that each of us spends on average 10 minutes a day searching for things we’ve lost: lost keys, lost glasses, lost paperwork and of course a lost TV remote control.
Waiting is often much harder than actively searching. No doubt you have been told by someone, “Just wait, it will turn up.” In my experience that suggestion is rarely met with grateful, “Thanks, I hadn’t thought of that.”
But what if we are the one that is lost. There are times in our lives when we feel lost. Often in the aftermath of a big life event: accidents, illness, death of a loved one, unemployment, separation and divorce, criminal conviction, retirement, kids leaving home, moving house, to name but a few. Sometimes we know what we have lost, but often we are just aware that’s somethings missing from our lives. We have lost purpose. We have lost direction. We search for meaning. We wait for something to happen that may indicate life will get better, return to normal.
Some things in life we never get over. The hurts run deep. The scars remain. But if we can’t get over it, we CAN get past it.
In the Gospel of Luke Jesus gives us three parables about loss: The lost coin, the lost sheep and the lost son. In the first two parables he talks about actively searching for that which has been lost. The woman turning the house upside down until she finds her lost coin. The shepherd searching for the sheep that has gone astray. The third parable (often known as the Parable of the Prodigal Son) is a story about waiting. The father waiting for the son to realize he is lost. In these stories Jesus presents an image of God as a seeking, waiting, forgiving, gracious God who exceeds our expectations. Looking for us, before we ever thought about looking for him. Waiting and wanting nothing less than for us to be restored to family and community.
Most of us will search all our lives for the illusive “life’s purpose” (the destination), but all of us can live with a “sense of purpose” (a direction). We are not lost if we have a direction. The destination may be near or far, but the gospel assures us that God both travels with us and waits at our journey’s end.
This is the Gospel, and it’s good news.