I once accompanied a nine year-old boy on a search for his lost glasses. I did it out of duty. And I held no real hope of finding them. I went only to quell my guilt for not searching when we would inevitably go purchase another pair. Plus this particular nine year-old is a delight and even searching for a needle in a haystack with him could be fun.
We parked my truck near the place he remembered last having his glasses—a walking path snaking through our small community and landscaped with large river rocks. He had been at the new skateboard park and I reckoned we had about three quarters of a mile of path to search from here to there. I knew the path well and was naively picturing the most likely places to search. The boy had followed no such direct route, however, instead following the more fun and loopy nine year-old course.
First, we searched the bushes around every rock he had climbed and launched himself off. Next we veered off the path and hunted around a statue of a flying horse he had investigated. Then we left the path altogether and cut diagonally through a parking lot. But even that was not direct. He showed me the sidewalk railing he had climbed over, climbed over it again, and then cut behind the dumpster and finally sauntered through the restaurant, again. It was truly random! Back on the path we peered under every weed in the spot he had stopped to chase a garter snake. He had bent over there and thought that might be the point his glasses slid off, though he couldn’t really remember. Here I engaged in the search earnestly agreeing it was the most likely place. But we came up empty and continued by scouring every dink and dodge he took off the path until we finally reached the skate park.
All the while, we had a fun conversation about snakes and any other stuff that came up. This was definitely not a mathematically precise power walk or even a systematic search. I observed he didn’t so much walk as bounce, light and airy with his feet only touching the ground for the fun of it. I learned the names of various skateboard moves and saw the familiar, I thought, walking path for the first time. We spooked another garter snake and marveled at how fast they are. We talked about likely fishing holes as we walked near the river. We wondered what fun things we could do with the $70 to $100 his new glasses would cost to replace, if we found his old ones. Reversing the Apostle Paul’s meaning “I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child” and I enjoyed every moment of it. Being a nine year-old ain’t so bad.
Maybe that’s what Jesus meant when he called the children onto his lap and told his adult followers to have a child-like faith. Maybe the “kingdom of heaven,” as Jesus talked about it and lived it, is more than a “straight and narrow path” defined by rules and time lines and well defined adult perceptions and ideas. What if the freedom Jesus promised his followers is better illustrated (and lived!) by a young boy turning his search for his glasses into another adventure? What if our pursuit of meaning—and Jesus himself—sometimes became a fun and loopy path? These things I pondered on the way back home.
But I had pretty much given up the search. After all, I had begun the search thinking I would not find what I was looking for (to paraphrase Bono). I would look down at the ground occasionally just because I should. Nearing my truck, I guiltily glanced down again and to my utter disbelief spied my nine year-old companion’s glasses sitting in the landscaping bark neatly folded as if someone had purposefully placed them there.
The nine year-old squealed; his face beamed; we high fived. We danced around as if we had found Jesus’ “pearl of great price.”
“I was just praying we’d find ‘em,” he said. “Jesus dropped ‘em right where you were lookin’.” Immediately my adult mind found a more plausible explanation for how the glasses ended up neatly folded where we had already searched. I wish it hadn’t.