A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker
IN SEARCH OF THE LOST
As I write, a famous person is missing. His plane has gone down. He is lost at sea. For two days now, news outlets have focused their enormous resources on the search for this poor lost soul, and the search to find him and those who were flying with him. They struggle with the concept -- lost!
They don't know what to say, what not to say. They want something finished, something final, something complete. But all they can say with any degree of certainty is "lost." The word hangs heavily over the country as we wait and wonder and worry.
During the Vietnam War, I had friends who had big brothers or cousins who were sent off to fight in the jungles of southeast Asia. It was a frightening time, especially when we saw the horror of that conflict played out every day on the evening news. I knew families whose sons were killed,
and I grieved with them and mourned their loss. But the most difficult families to face were those whose sons were listed as "missing in action."
What do you say? Do you extend your sympathy, or your hope? Years later, I bumped into the mother of a young man who had been missing since his plane went down near Da Nang. I gently asked if she had ever received any information as to what had finally happened to him. There was still pain in her eyes as she shook her head "no."
"You know, it's funny," she said, her eyes moist and red. "On holidays, we still set a place for him at our table. I know he's not coming. But I just can't bring myself to leave his place empty." Nor can she fill the empty place in her heart.
As a young journalist, my first A-1 assignment was covering the disappearance of a 3-year-old girl in a small town 10 miles north of where I lived. When my editor called with the assignment, my blood froze. I looked at my own 3-year-old, Amy, who was sitting in her high chair eating her breakfast. I wondered how it would feel to not know where your child was, to not know if she is safe and well. My heart began to pound. It continued pounding throughout the morning as I talked to those who were conducting the search. I looked at the girl's parents, and shared their feeling of panic.
And I know it sounds funny, but it was almost a relief when the girl's lifeless body was found. There was an outpouring of grief and sorrow from family members, friends and hundreds of people who had come to help in the search. But at least we knew now. We could deal with a hard reality more
easily than the uncertainty of not knowing.
Today we live in a world where we are surrounded by lost souls. Many are missing because of broken homes and dysfunctional families. Others have lost God, or at least, have lost themselves in the meaningless pursuit of false gods like wealth, fame and power. Still others have fallen into dark holes of addiction, and are missing in action that is ultimately destructive to their minds, their bodies and their souls. I can't help but wonder if there is pain in God's eyes as He looks down on His lost children, and waits, and wonders and worries. Perhaps He's waiting for us, wondering what we will do to reach out to these lost souls, and worrying if we will be in time to find them.
Before they're lost. Forever.
# # #
--- (c) Joseph Walker
Look for Joe's book,"How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through www.Amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com.