I have a friend who ran an event this weekend. She told me about a woman who called her after the event, she was frantically searching for a white plastic bag full of a dirty shirt and some medicine she had left at the venue. Yes, she was aware it looked like trash, but it was very important, very urgent she have it. She called and called and kept calling, my friend couldn't find it anywhere. None of her coworkers could find it. Finally, she called the manager at the venue.
"Sorry," he said, "we've already taken out the trash for the day. If she wants to find it, she'll have to go dumpster-diving."
And she did. I imagine she sat on the side of the dumpster, a little like a diver on the side of a boat about to go under for a long treasure hunt. Breathe out, mouthpiece in, splash down and sink.
She found her bag.
Once Finnly lost a little purple plastic gem he'd just gotten from the Dentist office. It was somewhere in the van, he swore it was. That gem was precious, PRECIOUS and important. Tears welled up at the corners of his eyes while he tried to maintain his composure as he implored me to find it.
I exhaled, "Fine," I said, "let me put Jo down for a nap and I'll clean out the car and look for it. It needs done anyway."
With sweat beads dripping down the backs of my legs, I hoisted car seats and boosters seats out, wrangled wrappers and rotting apples from under seats, I looked in long-forgotten compartments. Found some long-lost game pieces. Finn stuck with me for a while, until cramped quarters made me banish him inside to play with his brother. I vacuumed and scoured and found nothing. Then I did the unthinkable: searched through the vacuum bag, searching for this little gem.
I didn't find it.
"Buddy, I couldn't find it. I'm sorry. I did everything I possibly could."
Finnly took the news stoically, he sized me up, saw the frizzy hair, the sweat on the back of my neck under my pony tail. I had put everything on hold, paused my whole day, to look for this little piece of plastic.
"You really did, Mommy."
At the a trail we hike, there's a corkboard behind plexiglass, on it there are announcements and directions on how to pay for parking. There's also a notecard with "Lost and found" scrawled in permanent marker. Pinned to the board is an old sock, a watch, a keyring. There's also a note: "lost, wedding band, reward" and an email address.
The kids went kneedeep into the river, bent over in the middle eyes scouring the bottom of the riverbed for things that caught the light differently: a piece of quartz, a mullosk, a perfect skipping stone. Each time they found something, they bubbled up with an enthusiastic announcement, "Look what I found, Mommy! It's treasure!"
When the boys build legos, they will spend hours scouring through giant totes full of legos. The sound of the legos smacking against each other while they rake their hands methodically through the piles of legos is singular, like water running out of a faucet only the water is made of plastic. Each time they find the particular, singular piece they're looking for, they let out a little whoop of satsifaction and delight, they fit the piece where it goes, and then almost immediately, begin searching again for the next piece.
In Luke 15, Jesus rapid-fires parables about finding little lost things: that one sheep, that one coin, that one son. There's a pattern to it too: the loss of something singular, unique, and small, a tireless search, a sweet reunion, then an outrageous celebration.
The pursuit, patience, and persistence required to search, search again, keep searching, it feels like a compulsion sometimes. To find the right piece, finish the puzzle, locate that little lost thing, more precious now because it's lost.
I don't understand much about God, but I do know that he pursues us, especially the little lost ones that seem like trash: the trash bag full of medicine in the dumpster, the little plastic token for a job well done, that one lego piece, shattered glass it's edges rounded by the burbling creek water rushing over it, the prodigal son.
Lost, found, celebrate.
Lost, found, celebrate.
Dumpster-diving Jesus. Treasure-trash Jesus. Party-hard Jesus.
I want that Jesus.