On Being Labeled Lost and Remembering You’re Found

By: Rebecca Brown

Seated outside under the twinkling lights in Raleigh, our table was cluttered with finished dishes and empty glasses. The women seated at the cast-iron table beside me are still so much of my heart, and being reunited with them that warm July night just felt right.

Slowly and beautifully, our conversation shifted from hilarious trip-and-fall incidents to difficult family relationships and disappointing life struggles. Along the way, someone uttered, “Everyone has that one family member.”

You know the one we were talking about.

The one that walks to the beat of his or her own drum.

The rebel.

The lost one.

“Except you, Becca.” One of them said to me, “You don’t have that person in your family.”

Confused, I looked at all my friends. Their heads nodded in agreement. How didn’t they see it?

“That’s because it’s me. I’m that family member.”


Weeks before that dinner under the lights, I had a candid conversation with a friend on some areas I was struggling in my life. Spontaneously, I opened up about my anxiety, guilt, bitterness, confusion . . . I shared my worried thoughts, deepest fears, and harsh realities. They weren’t pretty, but they were true.

This conversation is when I was labeled “lost.” Due to my anxiety and outlandish questions about God, I was lost. This small moment is where I learned that I was, in fact, that family member everyone has. The one that carries baggage. The one with a lot going on.

The lost one.

To be labeled “lost” in a time when you already feel like things are spinning out of control is simply earth-shattering. To be called broken because of the circumstances you can’t help is absolutely gut-wrenching - as if we chose to struggle with these things.

But gosh, how often I have done it.

How often I have thought of another person in my life as “lost” because of situations that make me shake my head as a Christian.

The friend with an eating disorder . . . lost.

The friend who voted that way . . . lost.

The friend who doesn’t go to church . . . lost.

So what do I do? Well, I do exactly what my friend did to me after labeling me lost. First, I discreetly put on my patronizing voice and kindly remind them of the different sides of the street we live on. I’m the one following God and believing in his goodness. You aren’t. I’m right here - you’re over there.

“How sad for that person,” I say between bites at lunch with other godly friends. “We need to pray for her lostness.”

In reality, that person is going through circumstances I could never imagine, coupled with a lifetime of experiences I’ve never lived. And the truth is . . . God is doing as much in the person that I label lost as he is in my own life.

In Jonathan Merritt’s book Learning to Speak God from Scratch, he investigates the word lost and Jesus’ meaning of it in the Bible. He writes, “Jesus uses lost to mean loved, valuable, and worth pursuing. People who are ‘lost’ are precious, not pitiful.”

May God work in my own heart on labeling others as lost simply because of what I see from the outside.

“That’s because it’s me. I’m that family member.”

All three of my friends at that table in Raleigh looked at each other with shock. “Becca, you are not that family member. You are not lost. You are loved. You’re facing unforeseen circumstances with strength. And you’re doing good.”

Shame researcher Brené Brown says that the only way we can show compassion for someone else’s story is when we’ve embraced our own real story -- shame and all.

It’s amazing what a little bit of compassion can do to a mountain of shame.

To my friend who struggles with labeling others as lost, can I remind you of something?

Try to reflect on your own story and God’s role in it. Trace every moment back with your finger, even the shameful ones. Then, remember that your friend’s heart is just as precious as yours. Your story is just as redemptive as your friend’s story. Rather than thinking of her as lost, remind her that she is found.

To my friend who was labeled “lost,” can I remind you of something?

Your God knows exactly where you are. He laid each and every moment out at the beginning - even those heavy ones that you didn’t ask for. Your questioning and wrestling are the very things that are leading you closer to the heart of the Father. Never be ashamed of the story God’s writing in you.

And for both types of people, remember . . .

Being broken-hearted is different than being broken.
Having a crushed spirit is different than being crushed.
Losing your way is different than being lost.

With Jesus, you’re always found.

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