Lost and Found

Do you ever get a strong sense that God is using seemingly-random, attention-getting devices to, well…get your attention? Like He’s deliberately throwing something in your path that you cannot possibly miss as “God at work,” just to make a point? If only we could figure out what that point is!

There was one day last fall when I walked out of my home to run errands and I realized something about my ridiculously-large white van looked “different.” I couldn’t place the difference at first, but as I continued to stare at it, thinking, “Something’s not quite right…” it finally hit me – the black rubberized portion of my front bumper was completely gone. As was the license plate that had been attached to it. What was left was the metal piece of the fender, with several prongs hanging out of holes where they once held the rubberized piece.

The shredded plastic prongs told a story; it revealed a moment in the recent past when something “rather impressive” had forcefully separated rubber from metal…but I had absolutely no idea how, when or where I had experienced a large piece of my vehicle being torn off. No one else drives my van. No one wants to.

“You gotta be kidding me, right?”


Time went by. This van of mine has always been an “A-to-B” kind of a vehicle, not one I have necessarily taken pride in keeping up, for good or for bad. So this loss, while mysterious, didn’t make much difference in my life. We adapted to our “customized” street rod by getting new license plates and drilling one of them onto the bare metal bumper.

Then, several weeks ago, I was out and about with the little ones I watch during the day, running a couple of errands. I decided to kill two birds with one stone and wash my filthy van by going through one of those drive-thru car washes, as it really entertains the toddlers. (They are easily amused.) As I was pulling out of the other side of the car wash, I happened to glance to my left to see an odd combination of miscellaneous items stacked up behind the car wash building. What ultimately caught my eye was something that looked a lot like my lost front bumper.

Disbelieving, I got out of the van and inspected the pile. Sure enough, there was my previously-valid license plate, still securely attached. I threw the whole thing into the back of my van and drove it home.

Weeks later, the bumper is still sitting in our garage. I don’t know if it’s possible to easily reattach it, or if it’s even desirable to do so, and yet I feel inexplicably happy to have found it. I’ve lost many other things in my life, many of which were never found. In an odd way, the mangled front bumper taking up floor space in our garage feels like something intended to “balance out” my other inexplicable losses in life.

There was a time in my early 20’s, for example, when I was wearing a small pin on my winter coat, a pin that had belonged to my grandmother when she was a teenager. It wasn’t an expensive piece of jewelry, not by any means, but after a day of errand-running, I realized it was gone and I really mourned its loss for a long, long time. I still do, really. To me, that pin was priceless.

So why on Earth was I allowed to find what is probably now a useless car part, something that I lost but didn’t care all that much about, while I lost forever the pin that meant so much to me?

The answer to this question is almost academic, and doesn’t seem to have a lot of importance…but change the losses, and the question becomes intensely important. Here’s a question I hear often enough:

“Why is my marriage falling apart, a relationship I cherished, when so many others seem to be thriving in a marriage?”

The very question – “Why…”?” – insinuates that we deserve to understand what God is doing in our lives at all times. Like Job, we seem to think if we just understood what God was up to, we might accept the turn of events we are facing, the losses we have incurred.

An 18th-century Russian icon of the prophet Habakkuk.


However, God’s response to Job’s questioning is to ask him a few questions. A barrage of questions, actually, starting with this one: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” (Job 38:4) God’s response seems to me to say that we are arrogant to think we could understand even if told. God affirms our inability to understand his thoughts and plans in the book of Habakkuk as well, in a very memorable turn of phrase: “Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.” (Habakkuk 1:5)

The nation of Israel being taken into captivity by the Chaldeans may not seem to bear a lot of relevance to the end of a marriage, but the main thrust of God’s words to Habakkuk is what we need to keep clearly in view, namely that we have zero idea what God might be doing with the various painful episodes in our lives. Habakkuk went to the Lord in prayer hoping for a revival of moral behavior amongst God’s chosen people. What he came away with was what I imagine felt like a big loss to him; the idea that God was instead going to use the armies of the Chaldeans to judge the nation for its unwillingness to keep God’s commandments. The righteous and the unrighteous would alike be carried off by its enemy.

Thankfully, the Lord still seeks us, even as we live, breathe and die in the midst of widespread unbelief.

Unlike me, Jesus does not “stumble upon us” while getting His Ford Econoline washed; rather, He intentionally left His place in Heaven to make a way for us. We may feel at times like a discarded front bumper, of no real use to anyone, hanging out by the dumpster at the local gas station for months on end. God, however, continues to go to great lengths to show us that we are His beloved children, and He never tires of seeking us. He is unsatisfied to “make do” without us. He tells us that we are like lost – yet highly valued – sheep (Luke 15:1-7), valuable coins (Luke 15:8-10) and self-made prodigals (Luke 15:11-32). He wants us back, and has paid dearly to retrieve us.

It really comforts me to be assured that Christ sought me even when I lived as an enemy to the gospel. If it had been entirely up to me, I’d still be living next to the dumpster.

Habakkuk 1:1-5 (ESV)
The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet saw.
O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
    and you will not hear?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
    and you will not save?
Why do you make me see iniquity,
    and why do you idly look at wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
    strife and contention arise.
So the law is paralyzed,
    and justice never goes forth.
For the wicked surround the righteous;
    so justice goes forth perverted.
“Look among the nations, and see;
    wonder and be astounded.
For I am doing a work in your days
    that you would not believe if told.”

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