Sunday, April 10, 2011

Losing Things

We've all done it and we'll do it again. We lose things. Big things. Small things. Seemingly insignificant things. Truly meaningful things. But it happens. Losing things is a fact of life. 

A recent survey found that the most common things lost are (some humorous; some not so much):

Your date's name
House keys
Car keys
Personal indentity
Your mind
Wedding ring
Credit card
Driver's license
Car registration
Cell Phone
Travelers checks
Library books
Video rentals
Someone's birthday/anniversary

This past winter something amazing happened at the Brewer household involving my wife. Let me preface the story I'm about to tell by saying - my wife is the smartest person that I know. Not only that - she remembers everything. She has a mind like a trap. But this past winter we experienced something highly unusual. Not once. Not twice. But three times. My wife lost three pair of gloves. Nice gloves. Gloves that she loved. The first time happened somewhere in Yellow Springs just before Christmas. We have a tradition where we go up and shop at the unique stores up there. Then we go to dinner at the Winds which is expensive but well-worth it. Next we drive through a neighborhood united by their competition of who has the best Christmas lights - with our car lights off (which sounds crazy, but it's amazing and there's plenty of lights to help us see). After we do that we go to (or drive by) the Clifton Mill on full, festive, breathtaking display. And at the end of it all we finish at Young's Dairy for dessert before heading home. Somewhere along the way during that trip my wife lost her favorite pair of gloves. She was really sad about it because she loved those gloves. She called around up there and asked if anyone had found a pair of gloves but to no avail. They were lost. Well, almost. A few days later she found one of the gloves underneath the passenger seat of my SUV (which we took to Yellow Springs). But that almost made it worse - to have one glove but not a complete pair. I wanted to make her feel better so I offered to buy her an identical pair. So we went to Target but by this time the gloves were well worked through and we did not find the same exact pair. But we found a pair by the same label that were just as nice. Shortly thereafter, you guessed it, that pair of gloves turns up missing. Lost. As of this writing I don't remember the circumstance; I just remember that she now has two pair of gloves lost. Now not only is she sad about losing a second pair, but she begins to wonder is she's losing her mind. I offered to buy a third pair but she said she would just wear an older pair that she's had for years just in case she loses them too. And guess what? Yea, she lost that pair too. I assured her that there was nothing wrong with her. These things happen and they would most likely turn up. In the case of the last pair, they did in fact show up which made her feel better that she wasn't losing her mind! But it was quite the ordeal throughout winter. She hated losing each pair of gloves. And she kept wondering why? We lose things. It's that simple. Or is it? What if what she had lost had some significance or value? What if it was irreplaceable? I've lost something like that. 

At the time I don't remember doing anything foolish. Looking back I realize I just wasn't focused. Aware. And a simple decision cost me something very dear to me. Something that even as I write this post still makes my heart hurt. My real father died of his own hand when I was 15 months old which has marked my life in so many ways. As I grew up and learned more about him from my mom, my older sister, and my grandparents I began to want to know him in some tangible way even though I knew I would never physically know him. One of the ways this has happened for me is through stories and memories passed down. However, another way was by having the privilege of inheriting a lot of his personal belongings - wallet, watches, photos, dog tags, the flag from his military funeral, bowling trophies, pens, papers, etc. But perhaps the most prized possession that I was given was his class ring from Xenia High School. I wore that every day of my life from when I was a teenager when my mom gave it to me until I was in my late 20's when something horrible happened: I lost the ring. As near as I can tell it happened at a farm in Blanchester where the church I was serving in at the time was hosting a big youth event. The highlight of the event was inviting the local football team to the event to play a football game with us in the hopes of having a chance to minister to them. If I remember correctly the team was state champs that year. It was a youth/youth worker team against the football team and it was a blast. I honestly don't remember who won, but I remember playing quarterback for our team and throwing a no-look touchdown pass that totally blew their mind, because they were looking at my eyes. In the huddle I told my guy to go to a spot in the end zone and I would look off of him but still throw it his way. I knew looking away would draw the defense away from the target, and it worked like a charm. Obviously I was pretty proud of that moment, but less proud of another moment. A moment that seemed insignificant. But it was the moment before the game when I took off the ring. I did take off the ring. But I could not remember where I put it down. I looked high and low, but it was not to be found. And if it fell somewhere in that maze of corn fields and high grass there was no way it was going to be found. Had I put a little more thought into that decision - had I just placed a little bit more value on that heirloom - I wouldn't have lost it. I would have made sure where I placed it so as not to lose it. But I was in a hurry to be the hero in a game that didn't matter. And I lost something that I will never get back. And I will most likely take that heartache and regret to my grave. I feel like I dishonored my dad by not valuing that remnant of his existence passed on to me for safekeeping. I periodically look at web sites where people post that they've found class rings, but I have no hope of ever seeing that ring again. Perhaps God in His grace and His delight in small mercies will see fit to surprise me someday with a seemingly impossible reunion with something most precious to me. But for a moment it was not precious enough.

As I've thought about that (and I've thought about it a lot over the years) if there's any good that came out of it it would certainly be the life-lessons that I've learned as a result of that choice. And it's caused me to value things more. It's caused me to be more cognizant of my choices - even the seemingly insignificant ones. But especially the big ones. And it's made me realize that there are so many things in life that we can lose without much effort at all. And I'm not just talking about your everyday, common place items like some of those listed above. But bigger things. Essential things. Important things. Here's a short list:

1. We can lose time. Whether by losing track of time or simply wasting it - time can get away from us. Time is always fleeting and we can never get it back. Steve Miller says, "Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future." But it's also slipping, slipping, slipping into the past and we can't get it back. We must make the most of it. Ephesians 5:16 says to, "...make the most use of our time because the days are evil." Time is a terrible thing to lose.

2. We can lose our temper. Anger seems to be everywhere. Just drive down the street and see how many people drive as if they'd like nothing more than to run you over. We are a nation of angry people. And anymore it seems like secular people equate anger with religious people. Why is it that one's religion would make them angry? As far as the Christian faith goes, that certainly is not a teaching of Christ and you only see Him angry at the religious leaders of His day. The Bible does say that there is a time and place for righteous anger, and that a believer can be angry and not sin. But anger should not be a constant for the Christian. And you will not find it listed among what the Bible calls the fruits of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, and meekness. How refreshing it would be if we could lose the ability to lose our temper. I just read this quote from John Piper, and it meant a great deal to me, "Use the same eye-gouging, hand-amputating force against the lust for anger as you do against the lust for sex." Powerful.

3. We can lose our mind. I don't necessarily mean this in the literal medical sense (although that may happen in God's providence). But I'm talking about the space in our mind that we can't get back where we put things that we can never forget. This could be a sad and painful place of regret from bad choices - either ours or others choices that have affected us. It could be related to something impure that we put in our minds. But whatever we put in our minds will most likely stay there. So we must take care to value what we put in our minds. Because it's hard to get that space back once it's occupied - especially with the wrong things. Thankfully Roman's 12:2 speaks of being able to have our minds renewed, but even a renewed mind can be affected by bad choices. We need to be careful what we put in our minds.

4. We can lose our purity. Have you ever heard the phrase, "so-and-so has fallen into sin" as if he or she was just walking blissfully along in the splendor of purity and some great abyss of wickedness swallowed them whole from out of no where. I do not hold to that mentality. It's more of a process. I doubt it's so sudden. We lose a little here and there until sin chips away at us to such an extent that it is no longer a private matter, but a public disgrace. Unfortunately somewhere along the way the concept of purity has become a silly thing in our Hollywood-saturated culture. But there is nothing more beautiful than purity. Thankfully when God sees us He sees the purity of Christ, but that does not give us license to be impure and abusers of God's Grace. I love Proverbs 22:11, "He who loves purity of heart,and whose speech is gracious, will have the king as his friend." You can't beat that.

5. We can lose out testimony. I once heard someone describe one's testimony as a barn. It takes a lot of labor and time to fill it up, but only a spark to set it ablaze and burn it immediately to the ground. We must guard our testimony.

6. We can lose our way. Lose faith. Heart. Confidence. Direction. All of these seem to fall into the same category to me maybe with slight variations. It's OK to question. To doubt. But we can't stay there. I follow a Christian author and blogger that I like but sometimes disagree with, and he almost daily writes about doubting. Sometimes it's difficult to read because there is more to faith than doubt. At some point we have to have affirmation and belief. To me having faith is nothing more than trusting God. Someone once said, "When you can't trace His hand trust His heart." I love that. At times we don't know which way to go. But it's at those very moments that we need to stop. "Be still," as Psalm 46 says, "and know that I am God."  It's easier to know God once you know that He is God. The Great I AM. He can take us through anything and, as Psalm 46 concludes, "He will be exalted."

The above list is by no means exhaustive, but hopefully helpful. Life is the sum total of all our choices. We can't waste a choice. Each choice is significant. Each choice has a consequence - good or bad. And when we lose something it all goes back to a choice - even if it's a subconscious one that we have little to no awareness of in the moment. But even a choice like that can produce consequences that last for time and maybe even eternity. I hate losing things. Especially things that matter.


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