A couple of weeks ago, I reached in my wallet and could not find my credit card. I had not used it in hours and could not put my hand on it after searching my bag and couch. I started looking for the phone number of the last place where I had purchased something. I was fairly calm because I knew it had not yet been stolen and misused. I knew this because my credit card comes with great fraud protection. Whenever a charge appears that is slightly different than my normal purchases, I receive a phone call from my credit card company. This verification call notes that something is unusual, and they want to verify that I’m okay and that I’m in possession of my card.
It’s a wonderfully personalized lost and found system. In my experience, looking for something that is lost is much more like rummaging. Like when the child lost his second winter hat in one season and swore he didn’t know where it was. I went to the school and found a box of lost and found items waist high to an adult. I turned over the box and dug through misplaced child-sized coats, mittens, toys, lunch boxes and scarves. In that pile were both hats – and the mittens I did not even know the child had lost. After 20-30 minutes, I came out of the box feeling victorious!
Finding something that was lost gives both a feeling of relief and joy.
Jesus refers to that joy when he tells the story of the lost coin. The parable of the lost coin is sandwiched between the well-known story of the prodigal son who returns home and the story of the shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep to go find the 1 that is lost.
There is a woman who has ten coins and she has lost one. She turns on all the lights, sweeps under everything, looking for the one coin she has lost.
At first read, this story paled in comparison to the story of the sheep and the father and his sons. Then I thought about it in a different way.
There are times when I have counted out exact change for something: going to the Laundromat or getting on the bus or putting coins in the parking meter. It’s usually not a lot of money, but it is the money needed for a certain task. If I lose a quarter, I go searching for it. It’s only 25 cents, but I need that coin to do what I need to do.
I imagine this woman throwing cushions off the couch, lifting up the bed covers, picking things off the table, on her hands and knees, ignoring the dust that accumulates under furniture. Searching. Rummaging. Until she finds the coin.
When she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors to rejoice over having found the quarter. That, Jesus tells us, is how the company of heaven rejoices when we draw closer to God.
These images of people searching for missing items matter to me when I experience depression as a state of being lost. There are times when that seems the best way to talk about what it’s like to be depressed.
- I am tangled inside my mind’s endless thoughts of how inadequate I am
- I become a stranger to myself – feeling and acting in ways that don’t seem like “me”
- I can’t imagine feeling happy again
- I am adrift among the various demands of my life – I acknowledge them, but I can’t anything
- I can’t find my way to the vibrant world that’s outside a seemingly-impenetrable window
- I believe that no one can see who I really am or how I feel
I fantasize about a world where my friends and colleagues are like the fraud protection of my credit card company. They would know my typical patterns of behavior. They could see that these reveal my values and priorities. They would notice if things were unusual and say, “She is not acting like herself.” They would check in with me to see if I was okay. They would ask security questions to make sure that I am the person they know I long to be. The person I need to be.
Loving and caring for someone with a depressive condition is probably more like looking for the lost hat or lost coin. It involves sifting through a lot of mundane and unpleasant stuff. It’s not so obvious if a person is having a bad day, another medical challenge or is slipping away into a depressive state. It requires taking time out of one’s day, or maybe even stopping everything one is doing. They would do it because they want their loved one to feel warm and cozy in the world. They do it because they need their loved one in their life.
There are many wonderful organizations, books and programs that can help people to identify lost-behavior in loved ones. They offer various techniques for searching for someone. They offer support while one is sifting through the dust bunnies and clothing piles.
I have some people in my life who can hear that I am lost from the sound of my voice. Others seem to be oblivious. I take great comfort in the belief that even when my closest friends do not do all of this to find me . . . that God does.
I usually turn to God first when I feel lost. It’s a kind of reversal. When I am lost, I behave as though I must find myself. I search for the place where I am supposed to be. I yearn for a roadmap back home.
When I am lost, I go to church to get found. While I trust that God is everywhere – even nearer than my closest breath – something miraculous happens for me at church. Hugs on my legs from children. A liturgy I know by heart. Music that I can clap or dance to. Kneeling at a wooden altar. A message about God’s unconditional love.
Unless or until my friends and family come looking for me, the combination of these things makes me feel found. They make me feel like I am safely back in the palm of God’s hand.
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