Remember what it was like to get lost as a little kid? When I’d lose sight of my parents in grocery stores or shopping malls, the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach was almost immediate. Where am I? What do I do now? Should I hide so no one else will find me? How do I get home? Even though the panic was quickly calmed by the sight of my mom or dad down the next aisle, it was quite enough to remind me that being lost is a scary concept.
It’s an innate human desire, I think, to want to know exactly where we are. In our current technological landscape, the ability to know where you are at all times has become a given. A phone GPS always in our pocket has taken the guesswork out of going somewhere new, and we have the ease of navigation always at our fingertips. The stomach-churning feeling of being lost in my childhood is not something I’ve had to feel for a long while. That is, not in grocery store aisles or on city streets. I have, however, found myself feeling a little lost in the spiritual life at times. The same questions tend to come up there, too. Where am I? What do I do now? How do I get home?
The fear of being lost in any way, shape, or form rises out of a common, well-disguised lie: I am alone. When we convince ourselves that we are alone, we place the weight of finding our way back home on our own two shoulders. And, in the process of trying to navigate without knowing the way, we often get ourselves even more lost and become even harder to find. In fact, when you’re lost in the woods, desert, or mountains, you’re supposed to stay put. The rescue team wants you to stop moving around so that they can come find you in the way they know works best. Staying put and trusting that you will be found starts with replacing the lie that you are alone with the truth that you are worth looking for.
Yes, dear friend, the Father believes that YOU are worth looking for. But accepting that fact can be another battle in itself. But knowing us well, Jesus gives us three stories in Luke 15 that speak directly to our wandering hearts. He mentions a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son, all considered quite worthy of a search by their shepherd, owner, or father. But besides going astray and being found, all three prizes – the coin, the sheep, and the boy – have something in common. It’s a detail that Jesus considers important enough to emphasize in each story: the lost ones are not just worthy of a search… they are also worthy of a celebration.
Just like the woman finding her coin and the father greeting his son, “Rejoice with me!” and “Let us celebrate with a feast!” are the joyful cries of the Father when He finds us, too. Searching is not a chore or a boring side-effect of having created us. Rather, it is an active pursuit of our hearts, which are the Father’s true delight. To Him, no cost can overshadow the joy of welcoming home. Belonging to the Father means that we are continually pursued with gladness.
In his book The Return of the Prodigal Son, Henri Nouwen says of his struggle with being found: “Wouldn’t it be good to increase God’s joy by letting God find me and carry me home and celebrate my return with the angels? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to make God smile by giving God the chance to find me and love me lavishly? Questions like these raise a real issue: that of my own self-concept. Can I accept that I am worth looking for? Do I believe that there is a real desire in God to simply be with me?”
Now, I am not advocating for a lazy, disengaged faith (and neither is Nouwen, I’m sure). A true acknowledgement of God’s love finds action to be a natural response. And as Catholics, we have Sacraments to stand as guideposts when we’re on our journey back to the Father. I am, however, warning of the isolating, disorienting effects of self-reliance and self-loathing. We must remember who we belong to, and let Him tell us who we are to Him.
If you are feeling lost, disillusioned, or confused in life right now, take a pause. Remind yourself that you are not alone. Call a friend, behold the Lord’s presence in the monstrance, or seek out spiritual direction. If your search for Him is feeling desperate and anguished, let yourself be known, loved, and found by Him rather than fighting to know, love and find Him first. Stay put by following the fifth rule of St. Ignatius’ 14 Rules for Discernment of Spirits: in times of spiritual desolation, do not make a change. That is to say, do not convince yourself that a lack of consolation makes you less equipped to spend time in prayer. If you were planning on going to confession tomorrow, do not push it off until the next day. Do not run farther away, but persevere in the good commitments you have made. In doing so, you call out, “Here I am, Lord!” with great fervor.
In His eyes you are small, but you are loved. You are worth looking for; you do not have to find your way home all alone. Will you let yourself be found by Him? Will you learn your worth in His eyes? Will you join the celebration as He welcomes you home again?
“‘Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.’ Then the celebration began.” Luke 15: 23-24
Kathryn Hurd is a senior studying strategic communications and anthropology at K-State. She's a maker, a walker, a butterfly-spotter, and a lover of a good children's book. You can read more of her words, ramblings, and random interests here.