The best part about working at a university food court stems from the fact that the students tend to lose things. Car keys, apartment keys, student IDs, wallets, cell phones, books, laptops, even entire backpacks. You’d be surprised at what tired and hungry students leave behind, once they’ve inhaled a Chick-fil-A sandwich and hurried on to their next class.
Their loss of these important items isn’t, of course, what makes me happy. And certainly the very worst part about my job is when I go to our lost-and-found in the back office and discover that what has been lost isn’t there. Then, I dread going back out to the dining area and telling the student that their lost item is, sadly, still lost.
I hate the look of disappointment, even fear, in their eyes. There’s the unspoken question: “Well, if I didn’t leave it here, where is it?” And of course the all important: “Will I ever find it?” What does one do, after all, without one’s credit cards, car keys, driver’s license…or the laptop on which is an entire semester’s worth of work.
When even one thing is lost, everything is wrong.
(At those times, I understand why some throughout history have been tempted to kill the messenger.)
But it’s completely different when I do find their item in lost-and-found. Then, when I return bearing what was lost…ah, the joy! The relief. The thankfulness. Even the laughter. One young man practically did the happy dance the whole time I was carrying his backpack toward him across the dining room. Had I not been an old lady, I think he might even have kissed me for the joy of regaining that lost bag.
How I love to see that joy. And so one day not long ago I thought to myself, “If I could have any job, I’d like to be the finder of all lost things.” Kind of like Holden Caulfield who wanted to spend his life simply being the catcher in the rye—the one who protects the children playing in the rye field by catching them if they get too close to the cliff. I’d like to be the one to find all the lost items and present them to the owners, simply so I can see them rejoice and break into the happy dance.
But then, if I were the finder of all lost things, wouldn’t I simply be taking after my Father? Isn’t that what He does, what He has always done for the sake of love? In fact, that’s the whole story, the whole point of history—God redeeming what was lost and bringing it safely home.
My cousin became a Christian when she was 50-something. When she wrote to tell me about her baptism, I was struck by the simple and yet profound way in which she summed up the change in her life: “Everything feels right now.”
Of course it does! When we are found—claimed by and held steadfast in the love of God—all that was once wrong in our lives comes around right, and we are able for the first time to truly know joy. Thanks be to God, the finder of all lost things, who pursues us so that both His joy and ours may be complete.