There’s something imbedded within the human condition…a desire to place ourselves in adventurous, challenging, and perplexing contexts. Some of us fulfill that desire by simply engaging in a relationship with a member of the opposite sex (that can be adventurous, challenging and perplexing enough), while others enjoy a good mystery novel or watching television programs like Criminal Minds or Lost. I remember watching the first few minutes of Lost and thinking to myself, “Huh?” and then the title slowly floats across the screen as if to say, “Get ready to be lost!” Some play videos games, some compete in sporting events, some go scuba diving, and some climb mountains. Whatever it may be, I’ve discovered that feeling lost or searching for someone or something that’s lost isn’t necessarily exciting, but it is stimulating. When you’re lost or you’re seeking the lost, your heart starts pounding, you’re filled with adrenaline, and your agility is enhanced.
On the first night of our last backpacking trip, we came across two hikers down by the shores of Grant Lake. Their friend, John, had left five hours earlier in order to climb a nearby ridge, check out the view, and return before dusk. John’s buddies were worried for their friend and had started searching for him as the sun began to set just below the ridge. John had about an hour of daylight left before the darkness and freezing cold temperatures bounded and engulfed him. As we sat around our warm fire that night and the voices of John’s friends reverberated off the canyon’s walls, we prayed for John.
The next morning, we woke early and prepared to join our new friends in a search and rescue party. After fueling up with oatmeal, pumping fresh water, and praying for our efforts and John’s safety, we divided into pairs and started to scramble up toward the top of the ridge. Keeping within line-of-sight, we searched for John and called out his name. Our hearts were pounding and adrenaline flowed through our veins. We hoped and prayed that we would find him and we anticipated the joy we would experience when we did. After two hours of searching, a voice echoed from the base camp below informing those of us up on the ridge that they found John. We were filled with joy, the lost had been found. Apparently, John mistakenly took the wrong ridge back down and couldn’t find his way back to his camp. He wandered several miles south until he reached Tioga Road and fell asleep in the ditch. Several hours later, a park ranger found him in the ditch and drove him to the Tuolumne Meadows Ranger Station.
Jesus told three parables about seeking the lost. One was about a lost sheep. The shepherd left 99 sheep at home in order to find the one sheep that had wandered off. The second parable was about a woman who lost a coin. She stopped everything to search for her lost coin and once she found it, she invited all of her friends and family over for a party. The final parable was about a son who wished his father dead, acquired his inheritance, squandered it in frivolous hedonism, only to return home to the welcoming arms of his loving father who proceeded in sacrificing the fatted calf for a celebratory feast in honor of his son’s return…because his son was lost and was now found. Jesus said, “There is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!” (Luke 15:7).
No one wants to find him or herself out in the middle of the wilderness, alone, cold, and possessing no comprehension as to one’s next move. Being lost is not desirable, but it does stimulate the desire to be found. Being lost instills a longing to be back where you belong, a longing to be warm, safe, and surrounded by people you love and you know love you. The looming question is:
Do we perpetually wander until we’re lost in order to be found.
The Apostle Paul writes, “Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2).
So no, we don’t intentionally try to get lost. Jesus is warning against self-righteous stagnation and righteous indignation toward the lost. Instead of shunning the lost, we should have a loving desire to find them. Instead of guarding ourselves from sinners, we should join the Search and Rescue teams and seek them out. Furthermore, we should recognize that there is always going to be a fragment of our heart that is lost. We are all broken and we all fall short (Romans 3:23). So instead of standing aside and complaining about our brothers—who were previously engaged in debauchery and are now enjoying the fatted calf with our Father—we could better stand in front of a mirror, admit our own debauchery, and join the feast. It’s more fun and tastes a lot better than the bitterness of resentment.
I long for your salvation, LORD, and your law gives me delight. Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me. I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands.