Faith & Values
Found things, especially those that seemed forever lost, take on new meaning and emit a spark of joy even time can’t diminish. I was reminded of this when I got a call recently from someone I didn’t know, but whose remarkable lost-and-found story is part of my family lore.
“I think you might be the person who found my ring years ago,” the man on the phone said. Immediately, the account I’d heard many times in childhood came back to me. “Ah, yes!” I replied. “I know what you’re referring to, but it was my older sister, Linda, who found your ring. She’ll be thrilled to know you called! Tell me what you remember about the ring story.”
In the 1960s, Bruce Moore was a young man who worked in a sawmill in the small town of Scotts Valley, Calif. Employees often piled scrap lumber and other combustible debris onto a conveyor belt that carried it through the mill and up to a 20-foot-high opening where it dropped into a “wigwam burner” to be incinerated.
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One day at work, Bruce noticed his wedding ring was missing — and though he and his fellow workers (including my dad) searched the mill thoroughly, they couldn’t find the ring. He felt sick to think of it, but Bruce figured he’d lost the ring while loading debris onto the conveyor belt; it was probably buried within the fiery belly of the huge free-standing burner. Finally, after days of fruitless searching, everyone concluded the ring was lost forever.
At that time, my family lived near the mill. One afternoon my sister, Linda, then 12 years old, ambled over to the wigwam burner and used a stick to poke around the door-like opening at its base when a plume of smoke swirled into her eyes.
Undeterred, she found another opening and continued to jab at the thick layers of burned debris and ashes. (Who knows what random things will attract the attention of a child — or why? And, no, that wasn’t the safest place for a minor, but that was “back in the day,” before some of the occupational-safety laws we have now — thank God! — were in place.)
Suddenly, a glint among the charred, grimy cinders caught Linda’s eye. Intrigued, she used the stick to pull the object outside the burner’s wall. Knocking the ashes aside, she reached down and picked up a circle of gold — one that a young bride had placed on her groom’s finger with promises to love and cherish “till death do us part.”
When Linda took the ring home and showed our parents, our dad couldn’t wait to deliver it to Bruce who received it with grateful glee!
Flash forward five decades. I could still hear that gratitude as Bruce explained how he’d tracked me down through an article I’d written in which I referenced my parents’ names. I’m so glad he did. Bruce is still married to his bride of the lost ring. He eventually became a minister and now does missions work in places like Liberia and West Africa.
I love it when the lost becomes found. Like many across our nation, I wept with gladness at the recent escape of three young women from Cleveland who had been captives in a house of utter evil for so long. They were lost to their friends and families forever, or so it seemed. Their story, and Bruce’s, remind me not to give up hope on lost things or lost people — or to despair when I feel lost.
Jesus talked a lot about lost and found. When He told stories about a lost coin, a lost sheep and a lost son in the Gospels, He let us know that God cares about what, and who, is missing. And using words that fill me with hope, He explained His mission: to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).
Strung out sons and daughters dealing with addiction; straying spouses who’ve broken trust and broken hearts; midlifers buried under the press of daily duties who’ve lost their sense of wonder; once-close friends and colleagues, now embroiled in stomach-churning, sleep-stealing conflict; those whose questions and doubts have eclipsed any trace of faith; willful, sinful choices that cause untold pain and estrangement … there are so many ways to get lost in this world.
But just when you think it’s impossible — when the thing or person most dear seems swept away among the debris of sad circumstances and dropped into a furnace of hopelessness — look one more time, among the ashes. You might just see a glimmer of promise that the lost can be found again.
Jodi Detrick is a minister with the Northwest Ministry Network (Assemblies of God). She is also a public speaker, an author and a life coach. Readers may send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org