I shared recently that I have difficulty remembering where I have left my keys, even though I have a set place to put them when I’m not using them. The problem is so bad that when I find them on the hook I installed for them, I feel that I have won a major victory.
First runner up in the saga of “where did I put it” is my wallet. I do not misplace it as often as I do the keys, but when I do, it is for a period of days, rather than just a few minutes. And that causes a lot of inconvenience—to me and to the parish community. In addition to my driver’s license and whatever cash I might have in the wallet, it also contains cards that are my access to parish and community funds. No wallet, no driving, no eating beyond what might already be in the house, no buying needed parish supplies.
I am not trying to elicit your sympathy here. I do know that there are people who would love to have a wallet, full or empty, and that there are even greater and sadder problems within ten feet of me at any time. Rather, I want to share my process of forgetting who I am when such a small thing happens in my life. It has the tendency to define my life. My self-definition during a recent episode of the lost wallet was “the man who can’t find his wallet”.
I lost all focus. Too many waking and sleeping hours were spent trying to find the wallet. I went through all my clothes, especially those I wore the last time I remembered having it. I called all the places I had been since I last used it. I tore the car apart and looked in places I hadn’t even been. And I obsessed. I was depressed. I forgot about all other things.
The issue grew larger. It wasn’t just about my lost wallet. I wondered how far along I was with Alzheimers. I wondered if I were loosing all competencies, that I couldn’t even find something I usually just took for granted. In brief, I let the missing wallet define my world and me. Then I worried about worrying too much about the lost wallet.
What a piece of work we are! How easily distracted and thrown by the smallest things, so much so at times that we can completely loose awareness of what really matters in life: “I can’t feed the hungry, I’m looking for my wallet. I cannot visit the sick; it’s my wallet, you see. Sure I’m praying. I’m praying to find my wallet”.
Then I found it. And I reflected: “ I just spent two days being defined by something that I would have found in time, whether I obsessed over it or not. And in the process, I stopped being faithful to what really matters in my life. I left my relationship with God and God’s people and withdrew into my own petty concern.” Those two days would have been much better spent if instead of self-defining by my lost wallet, I had been faithful to the definition given me by God: the beloved of God in whom God is well pleased. One called to enter into community with all God’s people, especially those entrusted to our care right here. I failed. I repent. I rise again.
And the wallet? It was in the slacks I had worn the last time I knew I had it and where I had already looked three times. I found it as I was putting the slacks on to go to the chapel, going to celebrate with others our true definition.