Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What Lost Looks Like

Imagine you're driving around a car at 2:00 a.m. with no headlights and no clear idea of where your destination is.  You're lost.

Imagine you're walking down a path on a moonless night, holding tight to the hand of a witch doctor who will not release you.  You can't see the path, and you don't know where you're going.  You're lost.

Imagine you are in a dark room filled with drugs, sex, and partiers.  You may or may not know the way out of the room, and you don't care.  In a way, you too are lost.

The Word uses the word "lost" to describe someone who is far from the Father, like the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son.  As I've been traveling these last few weeks, there have been several times where I've been struck with the thought, "This is what 'lost' looks like."

Some of the people I've met in my travels have been like the first example -- driving the car of their own lives.  For example, one of my hostel roommates in Phuket was an Italian girl who talked with us about spiritual things for several hours.  Her philosophy about life was just a mish-mash of truths and half-truths she'd cobbled together over the years -- things like, "Jesus is all about love,"  "People invent religions to help them survive in the environment they're in," and "My grandmother was a very religious person, so I prayed for her to give me a sign about whether or not I should travel."  This roommate was a wonderful, vivacious woman, but it was clear that she was lost.  She didn't have a fixed point that gave her life meaning or direction.

Some of the people I've met have been like the second example -- caught in the web of spiritual forces that control much of southeast Asia.  In Thailand, every home and little business has a "spirit house" where the spirits live and receive offerings of snacks and flowers.  Many of our students and friends in Southeast Asia are bound by their obligations to ancestors and spirits, and many of them make important life decisions based on the words of witch doctors and fortune tellers.  For example, we heard about a whole country that had chosen the location of their capital city on the advice of a fortune teller.  These spiritual beliefs appear sort of quaint and mystical on the outside, but they are usually accompanied by a heavy sense of obligation to please the spirits and fear of what will happen if they don't.  A fellow teacher shared about an Asian friend who told her, "Your belief gives life, but mine makes me exhausted."

Some of the people I've met have been like the third example -- content to live mired in depravity.  I took a cooking class awhile ago and met an older Australian ex-pat whose stories all included either large amounts of alcohol, beautiful Thai girls, or someone going to jail; it was disturbing even to talk to him.  Many people come to Thailand just to participate in sex tourism, and it's said there is a street not far from our hotel where people can go to find young boy prostitutes.  There is a dark, twisted underworld here that is populated by both locals and foreigners.

The Father wants to rescue his lost sons and daughters.  The above stories are what "lost" looks like, but there is also a picture of what "found" looks like, seen in the story of the prodigal son:
   “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.    
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’    
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.  For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate." (Luke 15:20-24)
Another great story of lost and found is John Newton, the author of Amazing Grace.  In his lost state, he was a slave trader.  After giving his life to the Father, he wrote, "I once was lost, but now am found; was blind but now I see." 

1 comment:

  1. Great post. Your new friend from Italy sounds like most of our peers these days-- adherent to postmodernism. They are enlightened enough to value spiritual things and respect others' beliefs, but are more interested in whatever "works" at the time than in objective truth. Like you said, without that "fixed point" in which to anchor beliefs, life must be very confusing and meaningless! As for the Thai people, they are generally so friendly and giving, yet their culture sanctions all the red-light district depravity... so sad.