Monday’s was soccer practice on one of the muddiest, wettest, afternoons of the fall. It was a tough practice trying to refocus nine 7 year olds from the preferred activity (making mud angels and throwing mud balls) to the ideal activity (practicing for soccer). By the end of the hour I was wet, dirty, and most certainly a tad bit crabby. The kids all got picked up, I gathered up muddy balls and practice jerseys, and went to grab the car key. Normally we use a key ring with lots of other keys but in a hurry that afternoon I had grabbed the spare key. One spare key. Gone. The zippered rain jacket pocket I had placed the single key had been unzipped. The whole practice. One single key, one entire soccer field, with no way to get home.
I grabbed two muddy seven year olds (mine and another) and my 9-year-old spectator daughter, and we began looking. We walked here and there, carelessly, searching the muddy grass. It dawned on me. We’ll never find it. At least not like this. Searching has to be more intentional. We have to have a better way to find the lost key.
I gathered the kids and hatched a plan. We got in a line- 3 feet between us- and began traversing the field meticulously. I still had my doubts we would find that key but at last now we had a chance. Holding hands- crossing the muddy Francis Anderson field- looking for one lost silver key. What are the odds- on 600 cubic yards that we would stumble over the one-yard that mattered: the one that held the key. Back and forth, trying to maintain straight lines with military precision in the post soccer practice mess of two 7 year olds and a big sister waiting to go home. “Its no use, we’ll never find it.”
“Nope we won’t,’ I told them, ‘if we stop looking.” As we continued to search, I began to realize a few things about lost things:
1) We can’t find what we’re not looking for.
Umm…yeah, got it. Seemingly simply but so true. I’ve had friends in recent days on social media who are poo-pooing the trapping of modern Christian faith and advocating instead an invitation “to the mystery, to the dance”. I love that. I love mystery. I love dancing. But if I’m left to my own initiative to pursue God, I’m going to be pretty lonely on the dance floor. Because on most days I don’t feel like dancing. I’m crabbing or shallow or simple or ignorant. But establishing rituals of connection with the God who is always there to connect with us isn’t boring religion; it’s like intentionally looking for the key. If you never look for things, you’ll never find it. I realized some time ago I needed to spend more time looking for God, intentionally, in ritual acts of connection. Setting my alarm to rise early, to run around the neighborhood looking for signs of the creator and praying for my loved ones, and returning to the pre-dawn quiet of the house and over a cup of coffee, reading the bible to remember just how big God is. I’ve used different tools, different bibles, and different devotionals in different seasons to mix things up. But I keep making time to search for God.
2) If you don’t really need anything, you’ll soon tire of searching.
Looking for the key, we had made a few trips back and forth across the muddy pitch when I got frustrated- “forget it.” I’ll call Heather, bring a spare key down, and just forget this stupid search. But then I realized this was our only spare key. There was no other option than finding the key. No way to bail out. No way to phone it in. I NEED TO KEEP LOOKING BECAUSE THERE WEREN’T ANY OTHER OPTIONS. It reminds me that often it is those furthest from God who have the best salvation stories. Why? Because they had no other option than to pursue the God of all redemption stories: Jesus Christ. Sometimes I look around at the people around me and wonder- do you even need God or have we gotten so used to living without God we don’t really need him at all. Someone recently challenged me: “are you merely spoon feeding the already full?” Or are we reaching out to people still looking for a key to their lives. I want to be more like that.
3) Lost things get found when someone is searching.
It would have been convenient to stop searching- but I couldn’t -and so I didn’t stop. How much more than does Jesus pursue us? Desire us? And search for us? Jesus tells this story to encourage his friends looking for truth:
“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15: 8-10).
Much like the woman’s quarter in the story, my own story was that I needed someone to find me. I was 17, looking for purpose, and wondering whether God was true. Lucky for me, Jesus inspired some YL friends to come looking for me. And I began to hear about Jesus. And then, in August of 1992, I was found. I prayed and asked God into my heart, confessed my sin, and started a new path of following Him. A path, trust me, that has had many failings. And some dark spots. But through it all, I knew I had been found by a God who loved me through His son Jesus Christ. Even writing this, it feels good to remember my story of being found. But I wonder how often we tell these stories to our friends outside the faith? Or do we often spoon feed those already full? Do we feel found by God on a daily basis? And are we helping others seek for Him? We worship a God who never stops searching for lost people. I don’t want to forget about that part of God’s nature.
And then, near the end of our search, pointed down in the grass was the one, single, key. We found it. Because after all, the bible tells us, lost things get found.