BY REV. CLINT LOVEALL
SPIRIT LAKE FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
A while ago, I read a book about getting lost.
Actually it was about not getting lost using lessons learned by searching for people who have.
The author is an outdoor rescuer and has studied hundreds of cases of accidents and rescues involving lost climbers, hikers, campers, children, etc. His reflections are very interesting. For instance, young children tend to survive better when lost than older children because they stop when they are tired, they stop when it gets dark, they stay closer to where they got lost, they snuggle under trees to stay warm, they admit they are lost, and they assume they need someone to come find them.
Older kids and many adults tend instead to panic. They take off in a direction they think is right but almost never is, they refuse to stop even long after they should have found their way back, they wander around in the dark when they are most likely to get hurt, they neglect things that matter most like warmth or water and they refuse to face the truth that they are lost.
I've been lost outside, and it's a bad feeling. It's scary and the fear builds the longer you're out there. Some small voice in your mind suggests that you can't be going the right direction, but the rest of your brain wrongly overrules it and tells you to keep pushing forward. I guess you can only be so lost, but you can certainly keep going further from help.
Spiritually speaking, the same thing happens all the time. We get on a track that isn't helping us but we refuse to change directions. We simply won't admit we are lost.
We keep stumbling ahead expecting different results and convincing ourselves that the destination we want is just ahead. But it isn't, and in the meantime we are getting further from where (and who) we need to be. We won't stop, and we neglect the very people and changes that would help us.
Most likely that is why the word repent literally means to "turn around." We can't go our way and God's way at the same time. Sooner or later we have to get off our own misguided path and turn to a new one, a better one. Until then we are just another lost wanderer.
The church calls this pre-Easter season "Lent." It is a time to hear again God's invitation to change directions. To let go of the things that are weighing us down, to step off the paths that are taking us further from the truth and to stop doing the things that separate us from Christ.
It's the ultimate invitation to lost people, "turn around, let me lead you to a better place." Jesus wants to find lost people, it's why he came. Jesus wants to show us what it means to be found.
Of course, that means admitting that you're lost, that you need a guide to help you.
For most of us, that's the hardest part.