Lost. On more than one occasion, I have felt lost. In this pandemic, I find myself disoriented. I am a person who thrives on deep social connections and deep conversation.
Don’t get me wrong. I love phone calls and Zoom and social media … up to a point. Then there is this need to shake a hand, share a hug, and look at actual 3D people without looking directly at thousands of very small light emitting diodes for hours on end. Without social connection, I feel … well … lost.
This inability to flow through modern life without restraint and this inability to be with people without fear of what they might be carrying in this pandemic creates a feeling of “stuckness” that adds to the feeling of being lost. And there is a kind of essential sadness that is also manifested in so many of us.
To those of us whose lives are marked by a great deal of privilege, unconstrained movement, upward mobility, and the belief that we deserve to be completely unfettered in our “free society,” this is unfamiliar and seems soul crushing. As Father Richard Rohr shares in Falling Upward: Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, people who develop true wisdom are those who learned about “containers” in the first half of life. They are people who were taught about boundaries and borders and rules and limits. They were people who understood the law, whether natural, biblical or civil. They learned how to live within a container.
In his critique of modern western society, he notes that we have made a great deal out of eliminating these limitations for children and even young adults. With a wife in education and with my own experience serving on the board of my alma mater and chairing their Academic Affairs Committee, I have learned all about helicopter parenting and now what is known as bulldozer parenting. Helicopter parenting was the perpetual presence of parents (yes, even in higher education) who hovered above their children to offer near-constant guidance to help them avoid any obstacles. Bulldozer parenting (much more common these days) is when you have parents who have dropped from the helicopters to the ground and are just clearing the path of all obstacles … even when those “obstacles” are expectations and demands of the educational task. In each of these scenarios, the student never fully learns to cope with boundaries, rules, expectations, and consequences. That is a student who often fails in life beyond the academy.
In this time, there are so many people who are suffering and dying. There are those who have contracted COVID-19, and with its wide-ranging effects on people, some have survived with little illness while others have died. There are also those who are suffering the economic downturn … who have lost employment … who have become desperate for the economy to come back. These needs are no less real.
What grieves me is the fact that there are those who continue to downplay the severity and the conflicting demands that require a true wisdom to navigate. Instead there are those who are recklessly putting others at risk for their own ego needs, highlighting again their unwillingness to exist inside any container. (No, this is not a commentary on any business or how that business should reopen … it about the people who throw caution to the wind as if this pandemic does not exist.)
Containers are important. Limits are important. If this pandemic has provided nothing else good, it is a reminder that we live in this container called life, and we live in it with every other person and part of creation.
In this container, maybe it is ok to feel a bit lost. You see, it is in this lostness that I think we might find a God who is looking for us. It is in this container that we might learn more about ourselves and one another … maybe even learn to love ourselves and one another. We might just learn to love in a way far different from what we have known.
We might just learn to love as Jesus loves.
This has become, for me, a time of deep reflection. In my lostness, I have stopped long enough to hear where God is speaking to me. God is calling me to be still long enough in the darkness to sense something new that may be emerging. In the midst of this lostness, I am sensing God calling me to the place of love.
This Sunday (17 May), we will be hearing Jesus talk to his disciples about love. Along with that, we will be singing one of Charles Wesley’s most popular hymns, Love Divine, All Loves Excelling. The lyrics of the last verse of that hymn read:
Finish, then, thy new creation;
Pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see thy great salvation
Perfectly restored in thee;
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before thee,
Lost in wonder, love, and praise.
Lost. In this container that, at times, feels so terrible, let me be lost in wonder, love, and praise! When I do that, then perhaps I will have been found!