July 1, 2004
I’ll admit it—I’m an unbelievably forgetful person. My memory span is comparable to that of a goldfish, a good 30 seconds and then it’s a whole new world. With this in mind, you can imagine all the things I lose. No matter how large or small the object, how precious or necessary the item, I can find a way to lose it. Keys, sheet music, books, eyeglasses, CD players, computers; my things or someone else’s—I don’t discriminate. By now, finding things missing has lost its surprise; I just expect it. But imagine my shock when one day I realized that I had misplaced God.
I wasn’t meaning to get rid of God—no, that’s something I wanted to hold onto. It was just that one day I found that He wasn’t there. I staked an immediate search and thought of all the places that I could have or would have put Him. My sister loves to take my things without asking and then lose them in her closet, so I thought it safe to check there first in hopes that I didn’t lose God, but that He’d been stolen. Unfortunately, if God was in my sister’s room, He’d be lost forever under the mounds of dirty clothes, underwear, beauty magazines, and discarded make up. The search through my closet yielded similar results. I doubt that God would ever be found under my heaps of pictures, notebooks, and dirty laundry. When we moved, maybe God had been packed away into the boxes that we had kept in the basement. Though I desperately searched, I found nothing. My desk, under my bed, and in my locker—all the normal places my missing things show up—all turned up empty.
As I was looking under a pile of underwear, it hit me. How could I be looking for the Almighty Father in my hamper? What possessed me to search for the redeemer of my soul among the trash and treasure of my life? It had been so long since I had put God into use that I’d forgotten how to look for Him. My days had become wrapped up in school, work, family, and friends—God was pushed to the side and in the time that He’d been gone, I had completely forgotten how to look for and find Him. It was hard to come to that realization, but it brought me closer to Him—brought me closer to finding where I’d mislaid God.
After quitting my ludicrous bedroom-searching, I decided that it would be more profitable to search a few other places. I went to local churches, hoping that maybe God was there. But God didn’t seem to be there either. In one church, I was told that being a teenager kept me away from God and that I was doomed to Hell until I could fully understand God’s will as an adult. This only made sense in why I couldn’t find God—I hadn’t had Him in the first place. But I was quite certain that I HAD had God and that, no matter what your age, race, color, or religion, He loved you anyway. The next church I tried preached about the love of money and how it was necessary to give to the church, no matter how much you had. I didn’t think that God could be there—He stood firm against Greed.
So I kept looking and in each place I went, my hopes became dimmer and dimmer. I volunteered at churches, charities, homes, and community activities, hoping to find what I was looking for. There were places where God may have been or had been before, but He kept himself hidden in those places too. I made sure to retrace my steps, to look more than once, and come back time and again in hopes that maybe He’d been right where I was looking—but nothing happened. With each passing day, week, month, and even year, I began to feel like I was on a search for something that didn’t exist.
I told myself that this was the last one before I gave up. I told myself that this was the last time I’d be a teacher at the community-wide Vacation Bible School. I’d already taught for two years and each time was getting harder and harder. The first year was second graders. They were good kids, nothing special. The second year was preschoolers. That year, I knew God would not be found. I was a babysitter for parents instead of a teacher. I had children who couldn’t talk, children with mental disabilities, and even a girl who screamed and cried if you mentioned people dressed in costume. Instead of being closer to finding God, I got farther away and closer to a mental breakdown. I vowed never to do that again. Instead, this year I was teaching third and fourth graders—something I thought I could handle.
Yes, “thought” was correct. In the end, they were nearly as bad as my preschoolers. They talked constantly and refused to listen, making it that much harder to get them to pay attention and read the Scripture for the week. They ran away from me when I wasn’t looking, and, when I was, they refused to let me go, pulling on me from every direction like a rag doll. On the last day, after crafts, the carpet became a graveyard for crushed crayons and the desks were their tombstone—writing and all. Popcorn and pretzels from snack time mingled with the crayons and nothing could be picked up off the carpet with out the help of a vacuum cleaner and a few spare hours.
It had been another trying day and all I wanted to do was go home. But I couldn’t make the church clean up the disaster that the children had transformed their room into. The kids were still running around, only this time in the sanctuary, waiting for their parents to come and take them home. Laughter rang through the halls, but it only dampened my spirits. Students and their parents walked in and out of the room, collecting items that they would soon be throwing out and walking directly through any mess, making it that much harder to get out of the carpet.
Things were beginning to die down and I was hoping that I would be able to fulfill my task quickly so that I could go visit with friends. Kids were still walking in and out, but I had stopped noticing and was focused on the task at hand when I felt a tug on the bottom of my shirt. Looking down, I found a little girl with brown hair and brown eyes wearing a blue and white checkered sundress. Madelyn had been in my classes before; she was well-behaved, and after what I said earlier, one of my favorites in the class. I knelt down so that we were face to face.
“May I help you?” I forced myself to be pleasant and etched a smile on my face.
She threw her arms around my neck, kissed me on the cheek, and said, “Thank you so much for teaching me about God.” With that, she was up and out the door, laughing and talking with her mother. I sat there for a second, just looking at where she had been. And then I smiled—I couldn’t help but smile and I saw something that I had been missing before. I hadn’t misplaced God; I’d just forgotten where to look.
Danae Leali is a freshman from Canal Fulton, Ohio, majoring in Creative Writing and Radio/Audio Production.