I was five years old, give or take a year, and I was lost.
Somewhere between Ladies’ Apparel and the dressing rooms, I lost sight of my mom and got stranded in a forest of clothing racks and tall strangers. Unfamiliar legs and dresses and endless aisles of carpet-covered labyrinth in all directions…but no mom.
I remember the feeling of panic…I held it in, not wanting to sound like a baby calling for help, but I felt it deeply. See, I was the youngest…the one who had spent his whole life in a fairly-uninterrupted relationship with his maternal protector. And…in a brief instant of looking away…I had lost her.
Eventually, after stumbling in a dozen different directions, I found a pair of legs that looked familiar and grabbed on for dear life. A sense of security…of peace…of home had been regained.
I was found.
Those two experiences – of being lost and being found – stay with a person. Unpleasant surprises, broken hearts, failed attempts, missed opportunities…they all bring that lost feeling rushing back into the pit of your stomach. It’s like an emotional bookmark that growls, “Here we go again. Batten down the hatches because life just started to suck even worse than the last time!” It can be easy to fall into a sad acceptance that we won’t find a way out…that the strange sadness around us is what we’re doomed to wander in for the rest of our days.
But the surface doesn’t always reflect the substance.
The apparent realities of my life have shifted many times in the past two and a half years. Marriage to separation to brokenness to perseverance to dissolution to acceptance to healing to new beginnings to love. Any given moment’s snapshot might appear to tell the whole story…but it wouldn’t, really. The past two and a half years have been a mash-up of emotion and understanding as the pieces of life have been grappled with and rearranged. Looking back with somewhat wiser eyes allows me to recognize moments when I felt utterly lost…utterly alone…I was anything but that.
It would be wonderful if I could train my heart and mind to always remember that I’m never alone and never lost. It would be ideal if I could live in a space of constant connection to the deeper reality that true love never abandons nor fails. I’ve seen it play out so many times in my life that I should be completely confident of that fact…but old memories create tender places that wound easily.
Even this week I have grappled with those feelings of insecurity…the transient panic of being lost. The emotional bookmarks have caused me to flip back to life spots that still hurt. It is, to be completely honest, tempting at times to throw in the towel and run.
But I don’t want to run.
I don’t want to wander.
I don’t want to allow emotions (which often don’t tell the truth) to convince me that I am lost.
And, so, I have to choose to look beneath the confusing surface of things and believe that the substance within is greater than the illusion without.
I have to choose to believe…