Voices: The winding road home after getting lost

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My favorite musical artist is Childish Gambino. His music—like everything he makes and like the man himself—is thought-provoking, deep, insightful, incisive and painfully honest. This is nowhere better exemplified than in a series of handwritten notes he posted in 2013 leading up to the release of his album Because the Internet.

I read those notes for the first time recently. One line resonates deeply with me, playing on loop in my head like the hook to a catchy song for which I don’t know the rest of the words: “I got really lost last year.”

I think we’ve all spent more time lost than we’d like to admit. So much of life is wandering, and we have so little idea where we’re going or what we’re doing. I can say with certainty I don’t really know what I’ve been doing for the last year, possibly longer. I’ve done a lot of drifting and letting life happen.

I got really lost last year.

Not sure of ourselves

Working in youth ministry, I honestly got tired of hearing people talk about “finding your identity in Christ.” That’s the only thing people wanted to talk about at retreats, the only advice anyone ever seemed to give. I’m not entirely sure what it means.

Most of the time, I think it’s just more empty Christian jargon, pointless platitudes devoid of power or purpose beyond providing a palatable answer to life’s problems. But finding our identity in Christ still matters, because it speaks powerfully to us.

We don’t know who we are. We search desperately for meaning in so many places, futilely trying to find ourselves in a series of accomplishments, accolades, conquests or good deeds. We’re looking for something or someone to define us, and in all this searching we get lost.

The truth is, in our oppressively black and white views of the world, it’s OK if you’re lost for a little while—whether you’re 16 or 60. It’s OK if you’re not really sure who you are. It’s OK to be confused, mixed up, turned around, angry and surly, somber and anxious. Because in all of that, there is one thing that will remain constant.

God knows who you are. He knows where you are and where you’re going, and he doesn’t forget you.

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Demo day and rebuilding

Deconstruction is a popular idea these days. Even more, it’s a relevant word at this time of year, as people return to the places they grew up, surrounded by a faith or culture or community they’ve become disillusioned with or even outright rejected.

Deconstruction is important or sometimes even necessary, but not more than the aftermath. It’s easy to tear something down to the studs, but far more difficult, more painstaking and time-consuming to rebuild it or to build something new in its place.

Far too often, what we end up building on the other side of deconstruction looks suspiciously like a reflection of ourselves, an idol crafted in our own image to which we bow down, as if the roles were reversed. But what else can we expect when we turn inward to find truth?

Finding our own truth is a temptation when we get lost, when all the directions we were given seem to be sending us in circles, when the glasses designed to clear our vision just leave our sight blurry and our heads throbbing.

We resolve to find our own way to truth and consequently to heaven, as though others had not blazed the trail before us, as though that path were not littered with the ruins of countless, futile Babels.

Be honest, head home

Whatever road down which your journey might lead, be honest. We’re really good at lying to ourselves, justifying and making excuses. It’s easy to convince ourselves something is the truth just because we want it to be, it feels good, or it’s easy.

Maybe the truth will be what you want it to be, but it will not be true because you want it to be. It will be true because it is the truth.

Be brutally, uncomfortably, deeply honest with yourself. Be contradictory, incomprehensible, confusing, confused, frustrating, messy, difficult, speechless—so long as you’re honest. And let honesty lead you to truth.

Find your way home. Home doesn’t have to be where you came from or where you started. It just has to be where your heavenly Father is, waiting with open arms, bursting with fond memories of his child, and still with plenty of room for new children.

I got really lost this last year, and I’m still finding my way back. But I’m confident I will, and I hope to find you there.

Your journey may be circuitous, lengthy, ugly, shameful or otherwise. This is the rare road trip where the destination is what matters most. Just come home. Your Father is waiting, patiently.

Trent Richardson is the singles associate pastor at The Woodlands First Baptist Church. The views expressed are those solely of the author.

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