When I was little, I remember getting separated from my parents on a trip to the beach. In the 80’s, before the Pavilion at Myrtle Beach shut down, there was an arcade across the street. It was in a cluster with the Bowery and a few other night clubs and tourist traps. We spent an hour or two in this arcade, and at some point I wandered off into one of the adjoining shops. I have always been prone to sort-of “spacing out.” I will get off in my own little world and totally lose track of what is going on around me. This is what happened then. I was just walking around, going wherever the flashing lights and noises led me. The next thing I knew, I realized that I didn’t know where my family was.
During this time, my parents were driving a big blue Cadillac. This was not because we were rich. This was because my Grandfather always drove nothing but Caddys. My parents needed a car, and he helped them out (sort-of) by selling them this lemon of a Caddy. At the time, though, this was the coolest car on earth. It had a digital thermometer that would tell you the temperature inside or outside the car. It has plasti-wood paneling. It was such an amazing car, that I will invent a word…it was awesomeistical! So, back to the story. When I realized that I didn’t know where my family was, I went looking. I didn’t see them anywhere. I looked at the baseball machines. I looked at the ski-ball machines. I went everywhere I thought they might be. I finally went outside and up the street, at the traffic light I saw the most horrible sight I have ever seen. I saw a big blue Cadillac taking a right at the light and driving away! I ran down the sidewalk, but the car was gone out of sight!
I was dumbfounded. I didn’t know what to do. It was the first memory I have of feeling absolutely alone and powerless. I was too numb to cry. I just couldn’t believe that they would drive off and leave me there and not even notice that I wasn’t with them. I finally decided that I would go back in and find an adult to see if anyone could help me. When I walked back in the arcade, who should I meet, but my family walking out the door to look for me! After the “where have you been,” “looking for you,” “but I was looking for you,” “No, I was looking for you,” conversation, we got in our blue Cadillac to go home. Up the road a way, we came upon the Cadillac that I thought was my parents leaving me behind. There was a Playboy bunny air freshener hanging from the rear view mirror. It was the opposite of anything that could have been the real thing.
So, what’s the point of this whole story? I’m glad you asked. I just finished reading “The Reason for God” by Tim Keller. He ends it with this story:
“During a dark time in her life, a woman in my congregation complained that she had prayed over and over, ‘God, help me find you,’ but had gotten nowhere. A Christian friend suggested to her that she might change her prayer to, ‘God, come and find me. After all, you are the Good Shepherd who goes looking for the lost sheep.’ She concluded when she was recounting this to me, ‘The only reason I can tell you this story is–he did.'”
When I read that paragraph, it brought this childhood trauma rushing back to me. But it brought it back with a deeper understanding. The greater part of my life (and I would venture to guess, many of our lives are spent this way) has been spent much like that incident I had as a child. I realized that I was lost and alone. But rather than doing as I had always been told, I took it on myself to be my own savior. Just like when I was little, I realized that I was lost and alone, so I took off in search for God. I looked in Buddhism, I looked in Taoism, I even looked in Atheism. There was even a time that I went outside of all of that, looked up the street and thought I saw Him. I took off running after Him only to see him take a right at the light and pull out of sight. It wasn’t until I gave up hope and went back in to look for someone to help me that I realized that the “big blue Caddy” that I thought was God, was really just some guy with a Playboy bunny air freshener, who looked nothing like God on closer inspection. At least not once I realized that the real thing was watching me all along.
We, like a child separated from his parents, are asking the wrong question. We ask, “Where is God?” We search high and low. We follow after look-alikes and imposters. We chase the big blue Caddys. But all the while God is watching, and waiting. He is waiting on us to be still and let Him save us. My parents always told me, “If we get separated, stay in one place…we will come find you.” God wants the same from us. Let us say with David, “I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands.” (Psalm 119:176).
“‘You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you’, said the Lion.” – Aslan in C.S. Lewis’ “The Silver Chair