Our ministry theme for June is Wilderness. I’ve been thinking about how to approach this theme differently than I have in the past. This month I offer you the idea of being lost. In most contexts, lost is precisely what we least want to be. We might feel lost in our lives—lost in terms of the direction we want to take, lost in terms of career, lost in terms of our social lives, lost in terms of our spiritual lives. Feeling lost in any of these ways typically doesn’t feel good. We might feel lost when we lack a skill or a capacity—when there’s something we need to do, but we don’t know how to do it. Feeling lost in this way also doesn’t feel good. We might become lost when driving—perhaps our GPS didn’t work, or we don’t have a map, or the map we do have isn’t accurate, or the place we’re trying to find isn’t on the map. Or, we might be lost in the woods, in the forest, in the desert, at sea, in the wilderness. For anyone who’s ever been truly lost in any kind of wilderness, you know it can be terrifying. People who are lost in the wilderness don’t always return.
I remember being lost in a grocery store at age three. I remember being lost in a forest for a frightening fifteen minutes as a teenager. I remember feeling emotionally and spiritually lost at times during my young adult years. Being lost never felt good, and I suspect our default mode is to avoid being lost as much as possible.
But I also suspect being lost may bring some benefits. Being lost at times may be precisely what we need to wake us up, to shake us out of whatever stasis we’ve entered, to relieve us of boredom. Being lost may be precisely what we need to rekindle the fire within, to revive us, to inspire our creativity, to help us learn what we need to learn. Being lost may be the very condition that moves us out of dangerous certainty, that helps us “think outside the box,” that opens new directions in our lives.
This makes sense in theory. But how does a minister advise parishioners to get lost? (Ha ha! I couldn’t resist writing that!) It may be good advice, but it also may be dangerous advice. Is there a way to mimic the experience of being lost without actually being lost? Is there a safe way to be lost? Is there a way to be lost in a laboratory or computer simulation? Is there a religious education class on the art of being lost? I’m not sure. It seems to me the benefits of being lost only come if one is truly lost, if there is something truly important at stake. There’s no completely “safe” way to be lost. So, I’m not sure how to advise any of you to get lost!
Still, there’s something about it that feels like good advice. There’s something about being lost that is good for the soul. I don’t want to lose that. So, as summer approaches, I invite us to explore what being lost means to us. If you’ve ever been lost in your life, what was that experience like? What did it take to find your way back? What skills did you learn? What new confidences did you develop? And if you feel lost in your life right now, as difficult and challenging as it may be, before you find your way back, ask yourself: What is this experience teaching you about yourself? It may be the best thing that ever happened to you.
In the coming summer season, may we each find a way to get lost!