The first time I remember getting lost was in my backyard when I was about ten years old. Our backyard was large enough for me to remember it as a forest, and as an only child I spent a lot of my time wandering with a freedom that happened to be measured by four corners. One afternoon, on a bolder day than most, I left the known perimeter of my yard. I was pulled towards what I thought was the calling of my name from the trees, or perhaps, because I was prone to rebel against house rules. As I entered an unknown area, I had a mild sense of panic, but curiosity overcame fear. Before I knew it, my house was far behind me. It was the size of my hand and I couldn’t do anything but move forward, in search for something I had no idea of what. I was lost but I was content.

Today as a young adult, that same allure of getting lost calls me by name. Though I am usually the planner of the group, or the organized traveler who is caught preparing my trips via detailed Excel spreadsheets, I’m faithful to a powerful tendency: my craving for discovery and adventure. Planning is pleasurable, but it’s necessary to leave some space for spontaneity, shrugged shoulders and getting lost. What can be found might just be worth the initial unknown.

Though the word “lost” carries negative connotations, there is light in such a darkened word.
These are reasons why it’s a good thing to roam aimlessly—whether it be exploring a backyard forest or traveling in a new city to figuring out your vocational calling or 5-year life plan:

Getting lost extracts characteristics that are nameless to us prior. It’s neat to see that you might be more quick-witted, patient or braver than you realized.

It magnifies the things we may actually need to change about ourselves. Though it can be painful, it’s ultimately humbling to see that you can work on becoming less impatient, anxious or obsessive, thus becoming a more balanced and centered person.

It initiates independence of self, because sometimes we define what “lost” personally means. Only we can untangle the tension or situation we find ourselves in.

It sparks our imagination. Being lost creates a space for the overwhelming “what-ifs.” Countless possibilities arise from imagination and creativity.

Most importantly, getting lost instills perseverance in the spirit. The faith built on the countless trials you’ve had, or the trials you will experience can muster up the kind of confidence we all need in a life, especially when we find ourselves at frequent standstills and question marks.

Author and missionary Jim Elliot ties up these thoughts with a plain and profound thought: “Wherever you are, be all there.”

It takes a lot to accept ourselves fully when we are not at our best; when we don’t know the answers, and when we don’t know whether to go right or left. But if we are fully present and aware of the things around us, there is an adamant invitation of honesty, authenticity and deep appreciation for where we are—for our present.

If we are lost, it doesn’t mean we have lost. And if we are present, we can be capable of all things.

Whether you are at a standstill in your life, or if you crave to see the world, do not fear getting lost. Though traveling is more intimidating than leaving your backyard, boundlessness exists: our capacity to discover. Perseverance awaits us.

Sometimes the answers will be right in front of us, just a couple steps ahead. Sometimes our lives will require some dizziness before we can grasp clarity, some boldness before we can attain assurance and some getting lost before the right kinds of things are ready to be found.

Image via Oh Pioneer!

1 comment

  1. You’ve nailed it precisely. One of my favorite things when I moved to my little corner of the Pacific Northwest was going for drives in the county to see how lost I could get myself. It was cathartic for a young college student to get out of town and just explore the unknown. And there was such a sense of accomplishment in learning my way around, coming home safely. I love to travel internationally and you’re spot on that the best way to travel is to be adaptable with plans, to get lost now and again, and to be open to possibilities beyond what we imagined.
    Thanks for posting this.

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