Thursday, December 22, 2005

lost and searching

Have you ever been lost? You may have been in your car or maybe in the woods. Maybe you were in an unfamiliar place trying to locate a particular destination. It can be confusing and frustrating to be lost. But one thing is for sure. You want to find your way either back from where you came or to where you were going. No one who realizes that they are lost wants to stay that way.

Experts say that if you are a child and you are lost in the woods then you should stay where you are. The thinking is that someone will come and find you. But who can really stay in one spot. What if no one comes? The thought is too overwhelming. We have to keep finding our own way. We have to find our way out. We have only ourselves to rely on. Or at least that is how we feel.

All of this begs the question, "If you are lost but don't realize it, then are you really lost?" If you are on your way to a Christmas party at a co-workers house, but can't find it, then you might be considered by some in your car to be lost. But until you admit that you are lost, you are still just "searching." If you are still on the hunt, if you are still wandering around searching for that particular house on that particular street, then you aren't exactly lost. You are simply still finding your way. If you indeed find your way, you were never lost. You were just taking the scenic route.

I once was lost, but now I'm found, was blind, but now I see. We don't use the language of lost anymore. When we hear that language we might consider it out of date or offensive. Christians that use that language must be "fundies" or insensitive evangelicals. Jesus told parables about sheep, coins and sons wandering off and becoming lost. The first two were found, and the last found his way home. All of them were, in one way or another, lost.

We hear a lot about folks trying to "find themselves." I guess that means they lost themselves in some way. We hear about folks "finding their way." But my guess is that they are lost and are too proud to admit it. Much like what we do in our cars. For some, their families and our culture have repeatedly told them to "get lost." And so they have. They might even be able to admit to you that they are. For those who can admit to their lostness, they have already taken the first step home. This is good news, because even the prodigal son found a warm embrace waiting for him at home. And in his case, it seemed as if the love of his father found him even before he found home.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

out of wedlock

She was just a teenager and teenagers were never supposed to know this much of the world. She grew up in a small town. You know the kind. The big town with booming business was just down the road. But she wasn't from there. Most of her friends grew up in families just like hers. She didn't have much money. She had no formal education. She was just a girl, a pregnant girl.

Everyone in that small town knew her by name. They didn't ever refuse her a smile as she scurried by but they also didn't hesitate to gossip about the bulge just under her belly. Plenty of people wondered about her early engagement. Now it all made sense. Its one thing for a teenage girl to be engaged, its another for her to get pregnant before the marriage. And like most small towns, being conservative and being religious were prerequisite to acceptance.

She was so young, yet so tough. She could handle the suspicious stares and the unending whispers. She could handle her parents shunning her. She could even handle a fiance who claimed it wasn't his baby. But she didn't know if her little body could handle a pregnancy. Could her little womb handle the strain of the next 9 months? Should she try to have this baby and raise it on her own without her fiance and without her parent's support? Everyone knew the usual fate of a small town, uneducated, poor and pregnant teenage girl. If she had that child, she could lose her fiance, her family and her future.

And where were all those conservative religious people who were supposed to know God? Why couldn't they help her? Why didn't they offer more than judgment and condemnation? It is never an easy choice, but is one she would have to make. If she got rid of the baby, there was still hope that her fiance would stay. It would be a hard way out, but it was a way out. Maybe then she could have a future and, one day, a family that would be respected by the people in her town. No woman wants to make this decision, but what else could she do?

That night she laid down to sleep. She wondered what tomorrow would bring. She didn't know what she was supposed to do. Her fiance Joe had also been trying to sleep that night. Devastated that his fiance was pregnant and sure that it wasn't his baby, he struggled to find rest well into the early morning hours. He wasn't ready to be a dad. What else could he do but leave her?

[While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream. God's angel spoke in the dream: Joseph, son of David, don't hesitate to get married. Mary's pregnancy is Spirit-conceived. God's Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus--"God saves'--because he will save his people from their sins." This would bring the prophet's embryonic sermon to full term: 'Watch for this--a virgin will get pregnant and bear a son; they will name him Emmanuel (Hebrew for "God is with us").'

Then Joseph woke up. He did exactly what God's angel commanded in the dream: He married Mary. But he did not consummate the marriage until she had the baby. He named the baby Jesus.] Matthew 1:20-25 The Message