Alastair McCollum
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When church members of some traditions talk of those outside the community of faith one phrase often used is 'the Lost' - believing those who are beyond the walls of that particular group are lacking, or destined for some eternal downfall. This phrase is more vigorously applied to those who have 'strayed', having been a member of the congregation but -for whatever reason - have drifted away.  The difficulties with such terminology are that it puts those who identify others as lost in a place of self-proclaimed superiority, as they see themselves as 'found'. And constantly creating an 'us and them' mentality in our churches, and indeed in our world, only leads to isolationism and a sense of disconnect between one another, at best, and superiority towards and condemntation or fear of 'the other', at worst.

There are times in life when we may indeed feel 'lost' - adrift or confused by circumstance in life, unsure of our direction, feeling fragmented, or without companionship, or lacking somewhere we feel 'at home'. In such times we may well find a home in a spiritual community which gives us sense of purpose and home, or we may find such in a rediscovery of our spiritual path, or in our work or relationships.  But this is a definition of lost which isn't a bad one, or one which contains a sense of judgement or of being lesser. This is a sense of lost in which we can find ourselves, our place, our being.

Holding to that sense of lostness isn't a bad thing. When we strip away those things which can give us a false sense of security, or distract us from the deeper parts of ourselves and the world in which we live, we may find ourselves seeing and being in a new way. Many writers talk of us experiencing false or true selves, or 'ego led/small self' as compared to 'real self'.  When those things which we hold on to in order to prevent us feeling 'lost' obscure or distract us from who we truly are, perhaps a little wandering is good for us.

 

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd; 
I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures 
and leads me beside still waters.
He shall refresh my soul 
and guide me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil; 
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You spread a table before me
in the presence of those who trouble me; 
you have anointed my head with oil
and my cup shall be full.
Surely goodness and loving mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life, 
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.