Have you ever lost something? I'm constantly losing things. As I grow older, I find myself losing more and more it seems (probably not a good sign for my old-age years....) Something that really interests me is this: we rarely notice that we have lost something until we need it. We don't realize that we don't have our car keys until we are outside of the car door in the pouring rain. Our wallet doesn't cross our mind until we're in the drive through at Arby's and we have no way of paying for our meal. I guess it makes sense because most of us don't take a constant inventory of what items we are carrying with us, but the trend extrapolates to more important things I think. The process of losing something doesn't happen quickly, and it is normally not noticed at first. Take a marriage for example. Most marriages that fail do not fail instantaneously. There are small things that lead to bigger things that lead to real issues. Couples probably do not consciously think that the small arguments that they experience could be precursors to divorce. That is probably irrational in the moment, but looking back, I have heard many couples chock up the failed marriage to the "little things."
Time for some life story (enthusiasm ensues.) The biggest thing I ever lost was my faith. That is a bit of an overused phrase that means a lot of different things to different people. I did lose my faith in Christianity and stopped attending church, but it is a lot more than that. I lost my faith in people and in the world; in an innate goodness that I once believed people were born with. No longer did I look at people and see creatures capable of good, I saw hypocrisy and underlying motives and selfishness. Partly because all of those things were present in my own life, and I assigned them to the other people that I met, but I also experienced some deep hurts from people. To digress, I lost my faith in the world. It was not a decision made in haste or overnight though. I didn't wake up one day and decide to be a bitter, cynical, depressed jerk. It was a long process of events and walking away that led to where I was. And I didn't admit to myself that I had lost faith in everything until I was in the darkest place of the journey. I think that's how it goes when we lose things. I didn't fully realize that my hope was gone until I reached for it and it was gone. I needed a handle to anchor me, and it was gone.
The scary part of the story is that I didn't know it was gone. It was almost like one of those falling dreams where you get that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach and then wake up. I leaned my life back and there was nothing to catch me.
How does this apply to anything? It seems so easy. As if we merely acknowledge that we have lost something, and then go find it. You realize that your car keys aren't in your pocket, so you go back inside and find them on the counter. You reach for a wallet that isn't there so you drive all the way back to work and eat up (pun intended) half of your lunch break and silently curse the world (yeah, this happens to me at least once a week..) But what happens when you really can't find what you're looking for? When you spend hours looking for it. It's maddening isn't? There is nothing worse than scouring a house for an item that cannot be located. I remember once at band practice I lost my car keys, and we looked for almost 2 hours before I found them...on the dash of my car. I was so incredibly furious. Where does this leave us in life when we can't find what we're looking for? Is there a kitchen counter of life where all of our problems can be found? For a long time, I didn't know the answer to that. I searched high and low for an anchor, but came up empty.
Eventually, just like my car keys, I returned to the source to search for my lost faith. It was the most sensical decision I have ever made. If I had lost faith in people, I needed to return to people, not alcohol or sex or any of the other routes I tried. Just because one person hurt me, it doesn't mean all people will. Losing your keys on Monday doesn't insure that you will lose them again on Tuesday. Life is an imperfect organism that is constantly dealing out ill-conceived situations, but it doesn't have to drive us to give up. You can't find God or hope when you aren't looking for them. It's as simple as that. If you put on a blindfold and intently stare at a mirror, you will not see yourself. No matter how desperately you concentrate, you cannot see through a blindfold. In the same way, I could not have found my faith by continuing to wear a blindfold.
I hurt for those of you who struggle with locating hope and faith. It is a battle I know very well, and I understand how desperate and bleak it can be. I'm definitely not an expert in this, or any, area of life, but let me offer this one thing I have learned: look at what you are looking for. It seems trite and too easy, but it makes so much sense if you dig deeper. If you are looking for a mountain, you can't stare at the ground and merely wander around. You might get lucky one day and walk into it, but the odds are slim. Instead you could look up, and see which direction you need to walk. It doesn't change the fact that you are far from the mountain, but it does give you a direction to walk in. The same goes for life. When you raise your eyes from the ground, you will not instantly be back to fine, but you can enjoy the hope of having a new direction to walk in.
Don't give up, friends. There is always hope, we just are not always looking at it.
God, give us the strength to lift our eyes and look for hope and faith.
(I really appreciate you all reading today. You can follow me on Twitter at @matthewhillec if you'd like to.)