This one comes from our friend Eric Youngblood.

imageI lost my sunglasses.

They were serving their vocation as shields to my eyes at a baseball game. But eventually the sun retired for the day, relinquishing its post to the moon.

The polarized lenses–affording me the pleasures of squint-less visibility and protection from ultra-violet ocular violence–suddenly became little more than stylish, removable blind-folds.

So I removed them. Of that much I am sure. I’m even marginally certain they were then perched over the brim of my cap, giving my Lookout Mountain All-Stars cap the appearance of possessing its own set of eyes.

But then again, I could have inserted one of their stems in the buttoned portion of the knit golf shirt we coaches each were wearing so that they hung at the center of my chest in vertical limbo, dangling like a caught fish.

The one inarguable fact is that I was not thinking of them. The glasses, I mean. I was engaged in the game. Cheering. Noticing. Discussing. Whining. Instructing. Praying.

Our centerfielder ended the nail-biter with a missile strike to our catcher near the plate who made a seamless snag and tag to prevent the game tying run and assure our victory.

Elation ensued, punctuated by such a stupendous play and amplified by the dramatic and sudden end to what had been a tense, close contest.

It’s possible that I remembered my polarized plastic partners as I made the 35-minute trek home that night. By morning, as I began my day, the sun rudely alerted me that my glasses had vanished.

Losing a pair of sunglasses at a youth baseball complex is akin to dropping a $50 bill at a shopping mall: they were certainly picked up by someone. And that someone, even if conscientious and honest, wouldn’t have had any idea how to return the small treasure to its owner.

Things are Just as Likely to Get Worse…

imageIt was aggravating. Like getting a mailed notification of a speeding ticket from a hidden camera on Germantown Road that you never knew existed. $50 bucks down the drain. Nothing to show for it. And all my own fault.

But it was a small loss. And of course, I quickly recovered, as would you, but not before considering the agitation and disappointment that comes with a moment like this. No longer having what once was ours. And depending on the nature of what has become no longer ours, the see-saw gets far heavier weighted toward the disappointment. Even despair.

Because despite our high expectations–our age’s explicit prophesies of accomplishment and improvement to all parts of lives–evidence to the contrary keeps pestering us, like a gnat at an Independence Day cookout. We are forced to face the inconvenient insinuation that much of our lives, our individual lives and our cultural lives, are just as likely to get worse as anything.

It is inevitable that we will have collisions with moments where we “have what we don’t want or want what we don’t have,” which is the clever synopsis of suffering that the wheel-chair bound Joni Eareckson Tada has proffered.

Trying to Control What We Fear We Stand to Lose

If only it were the sunglasses. These collisions start proving more costly in ways that can’t even be numbered, but everyone I know could individually add to a database: a deteriorating marriage, a loss of hearing, a polite smile delivering rejecting news that your services are no longer needed because your company is heading in a “different direction.”

Then of course, to make matters worse, it isn’t only, say, a job we might lose, but also, a dad, or a son, or a spouse we can’t ever remember ever living without. Every misplaced credit card, disappearing sock, or arthritic jolt in our joints is an unwanted public service announcement that what the Scriptures call our final enemy has not been entirely vanquished.

Each morning you awake to the nightmare of realizing once again your precious loved one is no longer with you, that you can’t pick up the phone to talk to them. Each morning brings a violent reminder from an enemy you hope is not active.

It’s certainly preferable, in some senses, not to think about the things that might happen. Indeed, you can’t productively live in anticipation of grievous or insignificant loss.

Don’t Dismiss Grief

On the other hand, we can’t control nearly so much of the loss we’d like to ameliorate against as we usually think. Dan Allender has noted the ease with which we evade the grief of say, our national losses, to arrive at hasty explanations for them. What caused this? And who is to blame? What should have happened? Who didn’t do what they were supposed to? How can this be prevented in the future?

In lieu of grief, we tend to rush toward diagnostics of blame and reason, because we presume in our depths that if we can understand, we can control. Increasing our grip on and vigilance toward uncontrollable matters often wind up making us anxious, afraid, and contemptuous of any potential threats beyond our control.

Of course, it is part of our dignity as image bearers of God to discern, to analyze, to protect, and to seek understanding. It’s just that we leap to that spot instead of letting our grief do its work.

But there is another tact to take with our grief and the vulnerable condition it reveals to us.

imageParadise Regained…

As we are assaulted with losses of varying severity, from evading sunglasses to dimming eyesight, it is useful to recall that the Christian story of the universe. Just as swiftly as you can discover a flat tire, or smash into the parked Buick at the light in front of you, or drive down the street only to realize suddenly that you left your new iPhone on top of the car, the return of the Savior to “judge the living and the dead” is promised to be sudden and startling.

CS Lewis has, as usual, perceptively guided us in thinking about this:

The doctrine of the Second Coming has failed, so far as we are concerned, if it does not make us realize that at every moment of every year in our lives Donne’s question “What if this present were the world’s last night?” is equally relevant.

Sometimes this question has been pressed upon our minds with the purpose of exciting fear. I do not think that is its right use. . .

A man of seventy need not be always worrying (much less talking) about his approaching death, but he does take it into account. He would be foolish to embark on schemes which suppose otherwise. What death is to each man, the Second Coming is to the whole human race. We all believe, I suppose, that a man should “sit loose” to his own individual life, should remember how short, precarious, temporary, and provisional a thing it is; should never give all his heart to anything which will end when his life ends. What modern Christians find it harder to remember is that the whole life of humanity in this world is also precarious, temporary, provisional. . .


The insignificance of lost sunglasses can remind me of the significance of everything being lost, and my hope that I needn’t live nervously, but trustingly unto God, because our Savior will ensure the regaining of all that we have given up and all that has been taken from us as we dwell in the newly renovated paradise of the new earth where despair is no longer permitted and groaning is unthinkable.

And as we offer ourselves up to Christ in our daily work, rest, and play, we can hold on with a loose grip and resist the faithless allure of self-justifying but Christ-omitting adages like “we only live once.” We do live once, but it is forever, and each loss, as we grieve it, reminds us that forever has not arrived yet, but could be here any time.

Philip Yancey recalls attending “the funeral of a child in Chicago in which the pastor shocked the mourners by glancing down at the coffin and interrupting his eulogy with the sudden exclamation, “Damn you, death!” Catching himself, he quickly added, “Not God — it’s death I’m damning. And God too has promised to damn it.”

He sure has. Hopeful is the one who believes it.