We were in a large group: six adults and four children and we all stopped to look at a fountain.
But Hope, six years old at the time, kept walking. She didn’t intentionally wander off exerting defiance or trying to be naughty. She simply kept going in the same direction we’d all been walking a few minutes before.
But I didn’t know that.
None of us knew that.
We pause. Nine of us watch the fountain: all six adults and three children.
The crowd is like an organism with everyone moving slowly in different directions (there’s so many people); I’m searching for her frantically — at six her auburn hair is elbow level with most adults. She’s too short to be spotted easily.
WHERE IS SHE?
The adults move quickly: one takes over watching the remaining children, four each take a quadrant of the compass and spread out. And I? I jump up high on the closest bench I can find and begin to yell.
And I am screaming now and
The crowd, with the basic kindness that most people share, is now helping me look. A few mothers see my pained look and I can see their empathy.
My mind, like mothers do, races through the all of the evil possibilities that can happen when a little girl is stolen. Because people take little girls and then they…
My heart is truly sinking and now I’m crying.
I’m looking for my lost child.
Here, to the left, out of the corner of my eye, I watch my husband’s teary face and the back of my daughter’s head as he carries her back to the group. He’s found her and she’s crying too.
She’s shaking and still scared and won’t tell me what happened until a few minutes after she’s stopped crying.
She just kept walking.
And I hadn’t watched her well enough.
She kept moving in the same direction, hadn’t altered her course, but we had. We’d stopped. In many ways, her getting lost, her tears, her frustration, my horror, it was all my fault.
But unlike a child who’s parents should be watching her better, we sometimes get lost too. We walk forward without paying attention to what is going on around us.
My daughter was only six. She didn’t have the life experience to be more aware. That’s what her mother is for.
But the rest of us? We know better.
We walk forward, right?
Jobs, mothering, being attentive wives, writing, reading, working on our relationships. We move forward.
Call the doctor back, pick up my daughter from school, wash the dog in the upstairs bathtub, pick up my daughter from school again, email my friend from church, email my friend from high school.
I move forward. Almost blindly.
One step moves directly in front of the last one, sometimes so much that if we look behind us all we see is a collection of footprints in a straight line. But are we so forward focused that we lose a sense of where we actually are?
It’s good (and necessary) to focus on the Goal, the end being Christ. But maybe, just maybe, I’m fooling myself when I think I’m only focusing on that. I’m thinking about then next event, the next responsibility, the next squeaky wheel that needs my attention.
But in that, how far have I strayed from the path? How far away from my good, healthy relationships have I gotten? How far AWAY from Christ have I walked in trying to walk toward Him?
And then I’m lost.
Crying, shaking by myself because by the time I really figure out I’m alone all of what is familiar to me has already gone. I’m in a crowd of things and people and I’m desperately alone.
I have to do what I imagine my six-year-old did. She stopped, she looked around for a familiar face.
And I’m sure she had to look for a few minutes. She probably called, “Mama?!”
She called, “Daddy!!!”
(I cry in prayer)
And then she waited for him to rescue her, for his face to appear in the crowd.
(I stop, I wait, and I listen for Him)
And then it did because he was as desperate to find her as she was to find him. He was running and when he found her, he caught her in his arms and was Rescue to her.
I let the Father rescue me because that is what He’s best at: finding lost things, lost people, lost hearts. I let him pick me up and bring me back to where I’m supposed to be.