Being lost is hard, but not knowing you’re lost makes it even harder to find your way again. Being lost in the world means being lost to yourself. It is like how James describes the person who sees their face in a mirror and then immediately forgets what they look like (James 1:23-24). I used to pretend I wasn’t lost at all. To admit that is to admit defeat. But as life goes on, as the regrets pile up, I think we all begin to admit we feel a bit (or a lot) lost.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, He was entering a world that did not feel it was lost at all. It may have felt forgotten, overlooked, punished, or any number of other things, but not lost. No, everyone else was lost, but not them. But as Jesus approaches Jerusalem, He is weeping (Luke 19:41). He is weeping for a people who are lost and don’t know it. He is weeping for those who have rejected Him already, though at that moment, as He is sitting atop a young donkey, they are rejoicing because of Him. Jesus is grieved to His very core for Israel. In time, many of them will not recognize their God before them, and because of that, they cannot recognize themselves. His final words to the city are anguished:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’
Once not too long ago, during a time in which I felt lost, I stumbled upon the 2018 movie Christopher Robin. Like many movies, it describes the very real progression from childhood to adulthood: a loss of joy, wonder, and innocence. Although, it isn’t always just a loss—sometimes these beautiful things are stolen from you and scattered in the wind like ashes. You become a shadow of yourself—childlike faith is hollowed out and becomes adultlike suspicion and bitterness. You have faith only in death and taxes. This is what had happened to Christopher Robin.
And then one day an old childhood friend, a silly old bear named Winnie the Pooh, happened upon the adult Christopher in a little neighborhood park. He was shocked to find that Pooh was real, that he had, in fact, actually existed. During a particularly difficult trial early in the rekindling of their friendship, Pooh asked Christopher if he was friends with any of his employees. “No, I don’t think of them as friends. It makes it … easier if I have to let them go.” “Did you let me go?” Pooh asks in return. “Yes, I suppose I did.” And so it is with our old selves, with faith, hope, love, innocence, wonder—in many ways, our capacity for each of them has withered. We have let them go, though we didn’t realize it. One day, after years of neglect, we woke up and they were just gone.
Christopher wasn’t searching for Pooh, but there he was. Pooh held the mirror up to Christopher’s face and reminded him of who he was. Christopher felt the gravity of the situation. “The fact is, I’m lost,” Christopher sighs. “But I found you,” comforts Pooh.
It is easy to be lost. In the Christian world we have often ridiculed the lost who speak of “finding themselves.” But the truth is, finding yourself is worthwhile and necessary—if God finds it worthwhile to find us, perhaps we should as well. God has made us for far more and far better than we have settled for, and we know it. Even Nietzsche sensed something of our arrested development, and he wrestled with the concept of becoming and rising above the inherited stories about the meaning of life that have left us bound and gagged. He compels us to find our life’s purpose, to confront the darkness inside, to, as he wrote in Ecce Homo, “become who you are.”
And what am I? Who am I? Whatever it is, Nietzsche tells us that it is something we must become. The Christian’s version of this saying might be, “Be born again into who you were meant to be.” Nietzsche believed it was the serious influence of Christianity that has left the world in these dire straits, but in reality, the issue has been the lack of seriousness with which we “behold the man” (ecce homo in Latin, from John 19:5) and look upon the suffering face of the Christ who has come for us.
How do we define the self? Descartes said, “I think therefore I am.” But, if we see ourselves truly through God’s eyes, then we would know that is not quite right. In reality, “I am loved, therefore I am.” We are made in the image of God, who is love (1 John 4:7-21).
Yes, but how do we know we are truly loved now? In much the same way that Christopher Robin did: Someone finds us.
Once a few Pharisees and teachers of the law—more people who, heartbreakingly, didn’t know they were lost—snidely remarked that Jesus “welcomes sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2). Jesus then tells a parable about some sheep. If one sheep out of a hundred goes missing, doesn’t a shepherd “leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it”? And once found, he “joyfully” brings the sheep home and rejoices with his friends (Luke 15:3-7). He then tells a parable about a lost coin that a woman searches high and low for, lighting a lamp and sweeping the house to find it. When she does, there is much rejoicing (Luke 15:8-10).
These parables are images of God and us. God places great value upon us; we are objects of His vast, overflowing love. Like the shepherd, He pursues us to lead us home. Like the one with a lost coin, He finds us and polishes us so that we may radiate His image once again.
Be Still and Know
We often say that we “found” God, but really, He has found us. And through His finding us, we find ourselves. We discover what it is to be human again: to love God and our neighbors (which is everyone) and ourselves. We discover what it means to be in, not of, but for the world. We look to Christ, the new Adam, and see the telos of life. In Him, we see the human par excellence.
What I love about children’s books is that they must speak the truth with simplicity in order to make sense to a child. When the disciples sought to shoo children away from Him, Jesus told them to let the children come, “for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:13). Just a chapter before He used a child as an example of faith, saying, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). What does Jesus mean by this? The immediate context suggests humility and a lack of worldly ambition and vainglory. But there is also an inherent call to innocence, wonder, a desire to be held, a need to trust. Children are who we were before being tainted through the war of attrition that is living in a fallen world.
Athanasius of Alexandria wrote that “the soul is made not merely to move, but to move in the right direction.” But which direction is the right direction? Winnie the Pooh gives sage advice here: “Sometimes when I’m going somewhere and I wait, somewhere comes to me.” Outdoor experts agree with the silly old bear and recommend staying put if you are hopelessly lost since this increases your chances of being discovered by rescuers.
For those feeling lost, know that you don’t have to do some performance to make yourself worthy of God. You don’t have to go looking, for He is never far from us (Acts 17:27). You don’t have to make yourself presentable, for He will cleanse us (1 John 1:9).
So, who am I? I am found. Found when I didn’t know I was lost. Rescued when I didn’t know I had been ensnared. Freed when I didn’t know I had been enslaved. Loved when I didn’t know I had been serving the one who hates me most. Given life when I didn’t know I was already dead. When God finds me, I find out who—and whose—I really am.
The truth is, I have turned from this path many times in my Christian walk. Like most of us, the life of sin changed after I became a Christian, but it didn’t end. My story of God’s deliverance continues. Often, the shame makes it hard for me to pray, to ask God for forgiveness one more time. Perhaps if I imagined Christ’s eyes as angry, I could approach Him, because for some reason the anger is more bearable. But I don’t. I see Christ’s eyes as kind, and gentle, and tear-stained. Eventually, when all my strivings come to naught and I am left with my last resort—limping to the throne of grace—and admit wherever I’m at that I am lost, a gentle hand—one that has been there the whole time—lifts my face to His, and a loving voice comforts, “But I found you.”
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 Matthew 23:37.
 Christopher Robin, directed by Marc Forster (Walt Disney Pictures, 2018), 1:43. https://movies.disney.com/christopher-robin.
 Indeed, as Solomon and Higgins reflect, Nietzsche writes this phrase “over and over again” in his quest to redefine the self against traditional views of morality [Robert C. Solomon and Kathleen M. Higgins, What Nietzsche Really Said (New York: Schocken Books, 2000), 105]. See also Christa Davis Acampora, “Beholding Nietzsche: Ecce Homo, Fate, and Freedom,” in Ken Games and John Richardson (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Nietzsche (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 363-382.
 René Descartes, A Discourse on the Method, trans. Ian Maclean(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 28-34.
 Scott Harrower, God of All Comfort: A Trinitarian Response to the Horrors of This World (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 23.
 Christopher Robin.