Sometimes, the simplest questions can be the hardest to answer: “Where are you? Where are you going?” Lent is a time to approach these questions from a spiritual angle.
Feeling lost and alone is an old story for humankind. The Bible offers a beautiful lesson about such feelings in the third chapter of Genesis (verses 8-9). The story starts out with tension and uncertainty, because it takes place just after the fall from grace of Adam and Eve. Ashamed and discouraged, afraid for the future, the first human beings’ impulse is to hide themselves away:
“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. For they knew they had sinned, and were ashamed.”
But then God spoke perhaps the most beautiful, hopeful words ever uttered:
“…the Lord God called to the man, and said to him: ‘Where are you?’”
God seeks us out. Even at your worst point in life (as Adam and Eve surely are at this point in their story), He wants to reach you. He calls out to us every day to touch our hearts and enlighten our minds. He does His utmost to connect with us. In a thousand ways He calls to us in love, imploring: “Where are you?”
The questions “Where are you?” and “Are you lost?” are not uncommon in our society. But people are often embarrassed to give an honest answer. A modern-day stereotype says that men, when driving, do not like to stop to ask for directions. Asking for directions would be a declaration that he is lost; and being lost would be a sign of weakness—of being ‘unmanly.’
What a contrast with our sainted Church Fathers! As recorded in the writings of St. Nersess Shnorhali and Gregory of Narek, our holy Church Fathers answered God’s question of “Where are you?” by responding…
“I am lost…”
“I am the sheep that has wandered…”
“I am in darkness…”
“I am following the path of my sinful heart toward destruction…”
How odd that sounds to modern ears. After all, the Church Fathers are examples of holiness for us to follow. How is it, then, that those canonized for their exemplary lives could show such a low opinion of themselves? How is it that those whom our church proclaims as being so close to God, themselves feel a sense of distance from Him?
The answer can be found throughout Scripture. While modern society emphasizes that one must appear confident and self-assured at all times, the Bible exalts those who see their sin and admit they are distant from God. The writings of the Church Fathers and the Bible encourage the faithful to take an intensely honest look at their lives, and ask themselves where they are spiritually in the light of God.
From a Christian standpoint, anyone who makes an honest assessment will recognize that there are ways in which they are spiritually lost, and see in themselves places where they have spiritually distanced themselves from the Lord.
The journey back to God begins when one feels within a desire to be someplace else. Do you know where you are? Or are you lost?
Lent is the season to follow the examples set by the saints, and have the courage to stand up and say, “I am lost, Lord! I need your direction! Show me the way!”
Until we have the humility to admit we are lost, we will not let God direct us.
Yet even as you look within yourself and feel lost, there’s wonderful news for you to know: Someone is diligently searching for you. Jesus said (Luke 15:4-7):
“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost. Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
We are the sheep of God’s pasture; and when we wander, God seeks us out. The key to ‘being found’ by God is repentance. When we repent, we recognize that there are ways in which we have not been leading God-directed lives.
When we sin, it’s as if we have turned our faces away from God. And when God is searching for us, it’s as if He’s trying to make eye-contact with us. So the moment we lift our gaze to Him, He finds us, embraces us, lifts us onto His shoulders and carries us into heaven to the sound of rejoicing angels.
God is dying for us to repent, and to dedicate our lives to him in all things. When you feel lost, look to the one who knows how to give directions. Ask him to be the director of your will and life, so that you might together know the joy of being with Him completely, and receive the peace of knowing the constant presence of the Great Director in your life.
In these final days of Great Lent, let’s admit that we are lost, and turn to the Great Director to show us the way.
Fr. Tavit Boyajian is the pastor of the Sts. Joachim and Anne Church of Palos Heights, IL.