Lent 4 The Darkwood Gift of Lostness

There’s a path though it winds its way through darkness
we would choose to avoid it if we could
We awake to an unexpected calling
God says “Come – there are gifts in the Dark Wood.

Reflection by Gordon

In 1988 my brother and I went to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania for a friend’s wedding.
My brother was the best man, and I was the general support.
One of the things that I was tasked to do, was to head off a bit early from the family house so I could deliver the Orders of Service to the church.

I had watched carefully as we drove from the church to the house a couple of hours before
and I had memorized the main street name
As long as I got to Kinondoni Road, all would be fine –
I’d turn left it led to the main coastal highway and that went straight to the church.

When I left the house half an hour or so
before the groom and his family would leave all was fine.
I headed down to the turn off onto Kinondoni Road.    And my plans suddenly went awry
I couldn’t find the building that marked the corner.

I should note that there were no street signs in Dar Es Salaam at that time.
And with an increasing sense of panic rising,
and a quick flash of the headline in the Australian papers before my eyes,
I realized that I had no idea where I was, or where Kinondoni Road was.

I summoned all my courage, wound down the window and asked people –
“Kinondoni Rd?”
And here came the difficulty.
Most people there didn’t speak English – they spoke Swahili.   I didn’t.
And “Kinondoni” is like “Belconnen”

It is a Road. It is a suburb.
It is a district (which covers about half of Dar Es Salaam).
And so the people smiled and indicated that the road was Kinondoni
and all around was Kinondoni.

The newspaper headlines loomed large in my mind: Young lawyer missing in Tanzania.
Then I realized that I was kidding myself.   There would be no headlines.
I was simply lost.

Sometimes, maybe often, maybe more often than we realize,
the street signs that we think are there, the maps for us to get from point A to B
aren’t as clear as we had hoped

John: We are here, Lord
but we are not sure of where ‘here’ is…

We have gathered from the busy-ness
of life’s many activities:

family responsibilities
            garage sales
            attending to difficult life tasks
            celebrating rites of passage
            and not least
some of us are yet
to see beyond another monster garage sale… 

Find us, Lord
That we may be found in You.

We are here, Lord
But we are not sure what it is we see or hear…

We have gathered from the many sights and sounds
of our usual places and spaces:
homes and households
joyfully at play;
ravaged by confrontation;
Love dispels dissension, envy and strife. 

Workplaces filled with the sounds and sights
                        of productivity, born of mateship –
quietly honoring the other,
                        conquering boundaries,
            embracing difference.

Church property filled with the sounds
of an intense garage-sale crowd…
a generous presence
graciously given,
warmly received.

Communities of neighbourliness
         Recognizing love between strangers –
unexpected, not demanded,
without condition, freely received
generous compassion,
grace overflowing

Find us, O Lord
That we may be found in You.


Sometimes being lost is not such a bad thing.
When I lived in Sydney some time back,
I remember that one thing I would do pretty regularly
is drive to a place in Centennial Park where a large rock gave a great space for sitting
and in the midst of everything that was going on,
I could get ‘lost’.

When I need to rest and refresh, my family jokes that they know
I will begin to relax when my feet hit the water at a beach – it’s a chance to be ‘lost’

For others it is being lost in music.   Or lost in a book.
Or lost in play time with children, or grandchildren (or parents, or friends)
There is a time to be found and fully attentive.
There is time to be lost.
And even in the lostness
And sometimes if we don’t allow ourselves to be lost
we may end up not being able to be found.

John: We are here, Lord
But we are not sure what time it is ‘here’…

We have gathered from the
many times of our lives:

Times of celebration and joy,
           Times of sadness and pain,
            Time of gladness and success.
            Times of concern and perplexity,
            Times of creativity and building up,
            Times of tearing down and destruction.
            Times of love and grace,
           Times of anger and hate,
Times of confusion and anxiety.
Times of service and joyful giving
Times of receiving others generosity
Times of heartfelt compassion.
Find us, O Lord
That we may be found in You.

When I got lost in Dar Es Salaam the panic had really set in
And then there was a brief moment when sense kicked in
In the midst of confusion about being lost I figured it was worth re-tracing.

I re-traced my route back for 15 minutes
and found the house that I had left, just as the last person was leaving for the wedding.

There is little sense of relief
that matches realizing that you are not completely and totally lost

There is a profound difference between trying to retrace your steps
until there is something that can be used as a touchstone
And trying to re-live the past journeys.
What is it, in the times of being lost
we can use to re-orient ourselves for the journey ahead 

John: We are here, Lord
But we are not sure that Your hospitality is ‘here’, for us…

We are gathered to worship You
We desire to please You…

But we are not really sure that
           that who are,
and what we do
does in fact please and honour You. 

And yet, Your presence promised
Is here in Bread and Wine,
In The Spirit, and in Your cruciform body – this Church,.
Thus, we know ourselves found in You ,
here, at this table
Here in this community.

 Therefore, we know that we can always trust You,
Though all might seem lost
And that even in the shadow of death
We will not fear.
You have found us.
You are ever with us.
You will never leave us to face our peril alone. 

Find us, O Lord
That we may be found in You.

[With thanks to Thomas Merton
Whose prayer on lostness lent us the final stanza of this reflection.]



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