Several years ago, I got lost in the Pisgah National Forest.
I’d heard about a trail that made a loop from the trailhead and back again, ascended enough to offer a challenge, and promised breathtaking views. The friend who’d told me about it said the hike would take a couple of hours.
On a crisp late fall Friday afternoon, after a too-busy week with too many night meetings, I ducked-out of the office after lunch to experience a part of the forest I’d not seen before.
Since my friend had said the path was well-marked, I didn’t take a map. Since the sky was brilliant blue, I didn’t take my raincoat. Since the trail wasn’t very long, I decided not to take any water.
The trail wasn’t well-marked. It intersected confusingly with a few others, confusingly enough that I walked in large circles for a good while.
I have a good sense of direction, but it mostly failed me that day.
Once I realized how lost I was, I left whatever trail I was on and frantically headed toward where I thought a road ran through that part of the woods. Eventually, I found it and walked a couple of miles back to where my car was parked, but not before I got really thirsty, a storm rolled in, and dusk overtook the light.
There are many ways to be lost.
As a boy in a Southern Baptist church, “lost” meant “not saved.” We often sang: “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound/that saved a wretch like me/I was once lost, but now I’m found/was blind, but now I see.”
In one of Jesus’ most well-known parables, the prodigal son’s father said to the elder brother: “We had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.”
Any of us who has drifted (or run headlong) into the far country of foolish choices, wasted gifts, and squandered opportunities knows what a relief it is to find a way out of regret, shame, and guilt.
Lately, there have been times when I’ve been lost in anxiety. It has many sources. Among them is my fear over the careening recklessness and unrelenting harshness of some of our political leaders and the craven spinelessness of others.
I also live with steady unsettledness about the adjustments and relinquishments which illness requires of me.
I have, as all of us do, a list of friends and loved ones who face challenges of varying kinds to their wellbeing.
Occasionally, I feel lost in hurry. In “Speed of Soul,” Carrie Newcomer sings, “Been traveling faster than our souls can go.” I have.
From time to time, I feel lost in distraction, too. I’m mostly grateful for mobile “devices,” social media, and ready-access to a world of information. Mostly, but I don’t like the swirl all the buzzing-pinging induces.
What I crave is to be “lost in wonder, love, and praise.”
The wonder is there, here, but I rush by it. I need to slow down internally—to move at a pace that allows me to notice and ponder what my heart feels, my body senses, my mind thinks, and my spirit intuits. I don’t want to miss the extraordinary in only apparently-ordinary things and people. I want to respect life as I live it, by which I mean “re-inspecting” it, taking a second look at what happens in me and around me, and not settling for first impressions.
And, I need to inhabit silence more regularly and for longer periods of time: to go off the grid, and get out of the matrix; to speak less and listen more; and to empty my heart, as much as possible, of the noise so that I can hear the praise and joy which ceaselessly rise from the deepest places.
My prayer for this Lenten season is that I will find this better kind of lost.