A few nights ago, I was leaving the church rather late – about 8:30 p.m. or so. It had been a long day. I was tired and ready to get home to stare blankly at the television and think of nothing for a few minutes before heading to bed and starting all over again the next day.
On the way home, my appetite directed me to a convenient drive-thru to “carbo-load” so that I could have the fortitude to make it home.
Placing my order, I reached for my wallet in anticipation of the bill. It was there I discovered that my wallet was gone.
At that point, I simply assumed I left the wallet at home. Perhaps, I thought, in my haste to leave that morning, I just forgot it. Maybe I absentmindedly placed it with the coffee beans or in the refrigerator (I have done stranger things).
When I got home – hungry and without a hamburger in sight – I could not find my wallet anywhere. Not in the car, the fridge or the counter where I usually keep it.
The wallet was not at home, and the next day I discovered it was not in my office either. It was then I began to mentally retrace my steps, wondering where I could have left my wallet.
“When was the last time I needed and used my wallet? Just how long had my wallet gone missing and where on earth could it be?” I began thinking.
I checked online and knew that no one else was using my bank card or credit card, so I felt some assurance that it had not been stolen.
I was getting worried, of course, that it would eventually get found and who knows what would happen. An empty money clip and a stolen identity are just some of the possible nefarious outcomes of a missing wallet.
By midday, just when I was contemplating calling the bank, cancelling the cards and standing in the line to get a new license – yes, I had been driving that day without proper documentation – one of our custodians found the wallet, and without checking to see who it belonged to, brought it the receptionist desk for the lost and found.
Whew! Now all is right with the world, at least my narrow part of it.
What this has led me to ponder – and we preachers love to ponder, especially when deadlines are approaching – is how long something can go missing before you ever notice?
Usually something is not missed until you need it and then it becomes a consuming value. This happens with relationships as well as with missing things.
Someone mentions a name and you think, “What ever happened to her?” Or you come across a picture or a random thought, and it occurs to you that someone is missing.
Have you ever gone missing in someone’s life and no one missed you? I hear stories of children being left behind at stores, restaurants and, yes, even church.
Why is it that when something goes missing its value increases? Why do we have to wait until relationships go missing before their value increases? Can you think of anybody who is missing in action in your life?
Jesus made a big deal about the lost and found parts of life: missing coins, missing sheep and a missing prodigal all were met with great celebrations in the findings (see Luke 15).
I am glad along the way people have found me, even when I did not know I was lost. Great is the celebration when a relationship is restored.
The community of faith is where we celebrate every relationship as a significant relationship. May we never wait until someone goes missing before we appreciate his or her real value.
While I am glad my wallet was found, better still, I am glad someone found me.
Interim Dean at McAfee School of Theology of Mercer University and Director of Development at McAfee School of Theology and College of Professional Advancement.