Finding What Was Lost
Retrace your steps. Most every person knows this is the best way to find something that is lost. Return to the place where you know you had it last and begin looking from there. But what do you do when you are the thing lost? Can you return to the place where you weren’t lost?
Last week, I was feeling a little lost. I knew where I was physically, but I felt that my drive, my motivation, my purpose, had gone missing. Sound familiar? It is totally human to occasionally shake your head and say, “Where am I? Where did I go wrong? What is happening? What is this all about?” We all know how it feels to be confused or disheartened from time to time.
Living on mission like we have been for the last 15 months has put these things in question more often than most. However, last week felt like an especially dim cloud had descended on my psyche. Then on Wednesday morning, I was suddenly reminded of Elijah. I felt the Spirit directing me to 1 Kings 19. I read the familiar story.
Elijah is depressed. He is defeated. He is lost. And so off he goes—more like “ran”—as far away as possible. He leaves his servant behind and walks for a day into the desert. He sits under a tree and wants to die. Then after some rest and food, he travels forty more days until he finds a cave on a mountain. There he converses with God, who asks, “What are you doing here?” Elijah replies, “Everyone is against me. I’m the only one left.” God replies, “Go back the way you came.”
There is obviously more to that story than just Elijah returning to where he started. But as I read this scripture on a day I was feeling a lot of those same emotions—defeated, depressed, alone, lost—I decided to take this as a message for me. If I want to remember and recapture what I’ve lost, then I need to also “go back the way I came." So I did.
I grabbed a train to the Boston Common and I started to take a walk. I decided to recreate our first moments in Boston from our very first visit in May of 2017. We were in town for two days joining some friends in exploring the city. I will confess that in our minds at the time, Boston was just a pit stop on our way to where we thought God was calling us. Only time would prove otherwise. Now I know that it was during those those first two days of experiencing this city that God began to write on our hearts a dream for The Bridge. Even though we didn’t have any words to describe what our actual intentions were at the time, it was in that first walk around the city that our hearts were softened to Boston and the seed was firmly planted.
So I retraced my steps. Literally. I walked and prayed. I tried to remember what it was like to see the landmarks for the first time. I stood outside where we had stopped to shop or eat. I went into the same free museum with a miniature skyline of the city made from tiny wooden buildings, trees, and painted streets. I walked through historic neighborhoods and parks. And as I went I felt the wind, that was especially strong that day, at my back almost pushing me forward. I was encouraged. But I wouldn’t say that I had found what I was missing.
Back to the Bible. God goes on to confirm to Elijah he was not the only one. In fact there were 7000 people who were on his side, who had never bowed to Baal—the false god that the culture was worshiping at the time. I believe numbers in the Bible to be representative most of the time. What if the 7000 mentioned here wasn’t meant to be literal? Through out scripture, the number 7 represents perfection or completeness (7 days of creation in Genesis and 7 churches in Revelation, just to name two). In that sense, It could be that God’s number of allies for Elijah was a perfect reminder that he need never to worry about being alone.
This Sunday, we were invited to an informational meeting of another group launching a network of micro-churches in a suburb of Boston. We’ve gotten to know these people over the past couple of months are are very excited to feel like we have friends who think like us and are just far enough ahead of our process that we can watch and learn from their every move. It was so special to be present for one of their most public events to date. I left feeling so encouraged and excited for our future.
Then it hit me. Was this God’s way of reminding me I’m not alone!? Obviously there were not 7000 people at this event. But I’ve got to think that the energy I received from yesterday’s meeting is similar to the way that Elijah felt as God sent him back on his journey knowing that he was in good company.
It is true. God is still speaking if we are still listening. And next time you lose something, retrace your steps. Go back the way you came. Seek God first and see if all these things are being added to you. I believe you will find what you are missing.