Michelle Martin

Seek and ye shall find

Thursday, February 17, 2022

When I picked Teresa up from school one day last week, I asked the usual question: “How was your day?”

I expected the usual middle school answer: “Fine,” or maybe “OK,” delivered in a monotone designed to stifle any further inquiry.

Instead, I got an enthusiastic “Great!”

“Really?” I asked. “What happened to make it so good?”

“I lost two things, and I found them,” she explained.

The first was her water bottle, which hadn’t come home the day before. It was sitting on her math teacher’s desk, ready to be claimed, when she got to math class. The second was her science notebook. She wasn’t sure where she left it, but when she came back from gym, it was in her desk. The miracle of putting your name on your things, I thought but did not say.

I did say that it probably would have been better — or at least less inconvenient — if she hadn’t lost either item to begin with. “But then you wouldn’t have been so happy, would you?”

Teresa thought about it for a moment.

“No, I guess not,” she said. “It’s like something has to go wrong first, so you can notice it when it goes right. If nothing happens and it just goes right all the time, it’s boring.”

Maybe. I’m not one to wish bad things to happen, to me or my family or anybody, just to get the rush of relief that comes when — if — it all comes right in the end. There are other ways to alleviate boring.

But it’s human nature to look for the things we’ve lost, and to appreciate their presence just a little bit more, when we do get them back. We see it in the parable of the lost sheep, when Jesus talks about the shepherd leaving 99 sheep huddled together to go in search of the one who wandered off, and in the parable of the lost coin, and even the parable of the prodigal son, which addresses the suffering caused by the loss of relationships, and the joy of recovering them.

It’s behind the psychology of loss aversion, which holds that people are more deeply affected by losing what they have than by gaining something new.

I’ve got to say, Teresa wasn’t all that excited about getting the science notebook in the first place. She did like the water bottle, but it was a replacement for another one she lost. And later found, in the bottom of her swim bag.

How many of us have lost things, have lost relationships, even lost parts of ourselves that we want to get back? How many of us have wandered away from relationships with people who are missing us? How many of us, like the lost sheep and the prodigal son, have walked away from our relationships with God?



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