Whether through a lack of preparation, a series of bad choices, or a wrong turn — we end up lost because of decisions we made. Getting lost isn’t something that is imposed on us from an outside force, nor is it something completely random. In reality, we have to choose to be lost.
Several years ago I and some friends were going to a retreat center on the Oregon Coast. We were going to be a part of a larger group of college-aged singles on what was promising to be a fun weekend. Unfortunately, my two friends and I wouldn’t be able to meet at the gathering place for a boat ride to the event. We planned to hike in through the woods and meet up with everyone later.
If we had left Portland on time, we would have arrived at the trail head on time. But we didn’t. If the trail had been better marked, we might not have gotten lost. And if we had flashlights, a compass, and some better clothes, we might not have ended up cold, lost, and desperate in an Oregon Coastal rain forest.
What should have been a 25 minute hike, turned into a three-hour ordeal. It was a frightening experience for three college students who were merely looking for a fun weekend with friends. But it wasn’t an accident that we got lost — it was a series of poor choices, bad decisions, and an ignorant lack of preparation.
A few years later, I found myself wandering a spiritually barren wilderness. I was lonely, depressed, and angry. None of my attempts to save myself were working. Everywhere I turned only showed me how desperately lost I was. I didn’t know what to do. It all felt so hopeless.
It wasn’t an accident that I was spiritually lost. In fact, I had made a conscious decision to deviate from the path I was previously on. The whole church/religion things just didn’t seem to be “working” for me. So, I abandoned it. But now, miles away from that path, I didn’t know how to become u-lost again.
On top of a small mountain one cold, windy Winter night, I cried out to God, to the Universe above, and the city below. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what else to do. I just cried out for help. Just admitting that I was lost seemed to help.
A couple of days later I experienced an insight that changed my life. “Maybe,” I thought, “I’m not the smartest guy in the world? Maybe there is someone who knows more than I do and can help me find my way?”
I mulled that over for a few days before I realized that religion wasn’t the problem. God wasn’t the problem either. The problem was that I was trying to use religion as a tool, and I wanted God to fit my plans. Because God can’t do that, and religion isn’t a self-help tool, I continued to experience emptiness in my soul. I made a deliberate decision to turn my back on God, and that’s when I began to lose myself in the landscape of spiritual emptiness.
I imagined myself walking in the desert, frantically looking for water. I’m lost. There is a helicopter overhead and the pilot is frantically trying to get my attention. But I am oblivious to his presence. Finally, I look up, and I realize I’d be a fool to not trust the directions given by the pilot of the helicopter.
That’s when I realized I’d be a fool to not trust the direction and advice God has to offer me. And that is when I realized three important things about God:
1. He loves me more than I love myself.
2. He knows me better than I know myself.
3. He knows my past, He knows my future, and he knows how I should proceed.
Understanding these three things about God caused me to trust Him, and follow His guidance. I truly would be a fool to not seek out His guidance.
From that point forward, I began to regularly read my Bible, and to seek Him in prayer. My prayers are more about listening than talking. As I realized that I am the fool wandering in the desert, and He is the wise pilot of the helicopter, I seek to listen to His guidance, direction, and wisdom.
This has made all the difference. Though this took place almost 25 years ago, it continues to affect my life today. It took awhile to find my way, and the process of change wasn’t instantaneous — but it has been dramatic.
I wasn’t looking for eternal salvation, I just wanted to not be lost anymore. Being un-lost is a great place to be!
Gary S. Walter writes from the Northwest. All rights reserved © 2012 AnswersForMe.org. Click here for content usage information.