I know everyone feels lost sometimes.
That feeling of being lost seems an understandable consequence of trying to fit into a world that seems far too confused about its own status to be able to worry about us.
I find myself wanting to say something about this feeling, but don’t want to bark into the night, disturbed by passing sirens, unable to do anything about them or to still my reaction. Feeling lost may be a reasonable response to the emptiness I try to paper over with meanings, pinned onto the tails of passing ghosts of time. If the world I work so hard to build up—in order to have a place in which to live—is really empty of those meanings, then surely, I should just fall silent.
But my pen is already running across the page, and I know that I have turned away from the path of silence. I may be on that very path, but I have turned around and am running along it back to what I know: like a child who has entered an unfamiliar aisle in a giant box store and, realizing he has no idea where he is, turns back the way he has come until a familiar face, marked by its own anxiety, leans down and scoops him up.
I find nothing arising within me to illuminate this feeling of being lost, but two examples from literature have stepped forward, leaping into my mind, linked hand-to-hand like children facing a fearful situation together. One is found in The New Testament; the other is a nursery rhyme:
“Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep and doesn’t know where to find them. Leave them alone and they’ll come home, wagging their tails behind them.”
I suspect that Little Bo Peep and the Good Shepard of the Gospels are two sides of a single coin.
When Little Bo Peep lost her sheep, she didn’t even look for them, but trusted in Divine Providence to bring them back home.
In the New Testament, trust is placed in a Good Shepherd who seems to place more value on the one lost lamb than on all the others who have gathered around at night fall in the comfort of one another’s company.
I wonder if there really is a good shepherd who values all those who have gone astray: who have taken a wrong turn and now can’t find their way back; a shepherd willing to leave the campfire and venture into the darkness, in search of that one lost being; who will not return to the warmth of the campfire until he has found that lost lamb.
But Little Bo Peep, or at least the one advising her in the nursery rhyme, adopts another strategy. That strategy is to just let it go.
“So, you’ve lost something? Tell you what. You shouldn’t let that feeling of lostness permeate your entire state of being. Just let it go. Just let the feeling of lostness go. Just let what you feel you have lost go. If either one is meant to be part of your life, they will come back, wagging their tails behind them.”
If it’s a lost dog, then that wagging tail will probably signal that they are glad to be reunited with you. If it’s a lost sheep, that wagging tail could mean anything, perhaps that they are distressed to be returned to a place that they did their best to escape.
And if it’s the feeling of lostness that returns, in spite of our best efforts to get on with our lives, then perhaps we are meant to learn something from that feeling. Perhaps we are being offered a chance to find ourselves in the midst of all those broken pieces.