Are you lost or wandering?

I’m lost often. Even though I have been told that I am intuitive, my sense of direction is very bad so I am often  lost and I can’t seem to find where I am going. You can usually tell when someone is lost, at least directionally, but it can be hard to tell someone that, especially if they are lost in a cosmic sense. Lost in space, if you will.

It seems judgmental to do that. If we accuse someone of being lost, it might mean that we aren’t. So then all of a sudden we are holier than thou.

On the other hand, if you are the map, you are the directions, you are the destination, can you really be lost? Is the concept of being lost something that doesn’t apply in this era? Or can you be objectively lost? I don’t think we are that out there, but I wonder how much that idea has influenced what we’re saying and believing.

Sometimes we think it’s good to be lost. We like being lost. Lost in the wilderness. Lost in our thoughts. Lost in love. Wandering and wondering like that old Christmas carol (don’t get me started). So acknowledge being wanderers and that’s good.

I think we can reconstruct what it means to be lost or not lost or whether it is possible to be lost, but there is something more when we are found, known, loved, included. I think Jesus wants to do that. I think he might wander and get lost with us, but I think he wants us to be with him. If we are lost, he wants to at least be lost with him. I think that might be a more appealing image to this generation—to be lost with Jesus, to be lost in community, lost on a mission. It’s a little bit backward; I prefer to be found, I prefer to find Jesus, but I understand that my poetic proclivities may not be very important or inspired.

Being lost might be appealing to people who feel like they’ve had a secure attachment, and even a home. But being found, being home, being loved, and included—is crucial to people who haven’t had that. Consider refugees all over the world.

Enter the Ancient Israelites. Israel’s texts place particular attention on the weaknesses of the people. They are not a proud nation, a conquering nation really, in captivity, in slavery, being rebuked throughout the Old Testament by prophets that they are disobeying God’s will. Their whole narrative and sense of being is found in the promise of being home, being liberated, having their own nation (that identity has fueled their destructive nationalism as of late, it seems, too).

This group of wanderers—allegedly wandering through the desert for forty years—is lost and doesn’t want to be that way. And so when Jesus talks about being lost and found he is speaking to a group of people, even in their contemporary Hellenistic society, who are longing to be home and saved. Jesus offers them the antidote. He is an includer and a lover. He is home.

The story of the Lost Sheep is one attempt at Christ’s inclusion of lost Israelites or even unaware Gentiles. I think the way the Gospel writers use this common parable is a great way to describe how one can be lost. Two approaches: one is when your lost because you are you simply don’t know where to go. And still another approach is when you’re lost because you are disillusioned, lost because you’ve been hurt or you’ve hurt someone else, lost because you are ashamed.  You can do a deeper study of the passages in Luke 15 and 18. Or check out my summary here.

The big point is that the two parables here are talking about being lost in different ways. So how do you follow Jesus when you are lost? Many of us feel lost, we doubt, we are confused—but we know the way home, but we aren’t sure that that is the home that we want. It’s not mystery to people who have left faith and left the church, for example, how to get back in. Sometimes their departure is a result of their sin. And other times it is the result losing faith, losing connection to God and to community.

There are many ways to re-enter. For me, it’s always a conscious choice to participate and to join. My faith is a matter of discipline. I do it despite my shame and doubt. So maybe we need to encourage one another to keep the agreements.

For others, it’s a matter of invitation, they want to be included, they want to be invited. They need to feel good about the invitation. I think we can help people feel good about being invited and included. I think most people are like this. They want to be known and loved and included. They need gentle encouragement, not just a list of agreements. I think our cells and Sunday meetings are a great place for the disillusioned.

But what about Luke’s sheep? They aren’t just wandering, they are lost. They aren’t sure what they are missing. Those are the people that Jesus is explicitly hanging out with. They can’t find Jesus and they don’t know how to or if they are even looking for him. This kind of inclusion is a little more radical.

My challenge to you today is to become friends with someone you actually think is lost. I don’t think you need to believe that you are “found,” in order to think about whether someone else would benefit from being in your cell, part of the Sunday meetings, but I think do you have a bit of truth on your side and I think it’s worth sharing.

The basic answer then to the question of how the lost can follow Jesus? It is through you. Your work, your example, your ability to include them. Let’s do it together.

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