“Find, rather than seek.” When I read those four words in Joan Anderson’s memoir A Year by the Sea, they stopped me short.
I was sitting on the back deck of our family cabin at the edge of Lake Superior. I stopped reading mid-chapter, laid the open book face down on the arm of the Adirondack chair, and stared out over the expanse of gray water stretching like a metal sheet to the horizon.
Sitting in that chair, the sound of gentle waves at my feet, I was at the same time drawn to and troubled by Anderson’s words.
The problem was, her instructions seemed to contradict a statement Jesus makes to his disciples in the gospels of Matthew and Luke: “Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door shall be opened to you.”
These words Jesus offers about seeking and finding have resonated with me for a long time. I am a seeker and a questioner. Part of this tendency is simply who I am; questioning is stamped on my DNA. But there is also a deeper force propelling these seeking, questioning tendencies in me, which is the fact that, for as long as I can remember, I’ve wrestled with a sense of restlessness, an unrequited yearning deep in my soul.
While I don’t believe God gives us everything we ask for, I have always found comfort in the words Jesus offers about seeking and finding. They’ve been a balm for my restless soul, a promise of sorts – reassurance that I will indeed someday find what I am looking for.
And yet, that day on the back deck, the cold breeze blowing off the lake, I couldn’t get Anderson’s words out of my head. “Find, rather than seek.” The more I pondered her words, the more I realized Anderson’s advice might not be in direct opposition to Jesus’ instructions to us after all.
I’ve spent most of my life relentlessly pursuing goals I’ve set. I accomplish one goal and then immediately fix my mind and heart on the next. I’ve pressed on, ticking item after item, ambition after ambition off an ever-growing list. My life has been built on striving, pushing toward something I couldn’t quite identify.
Turns out, in 48 years of seeking, I am finally beginning to find. And ironically, what I’m finding is that I already have, and have always had, what I’ve been seeking all along.
Everything we need is right here, right now, in this very moment. We find God, and we find who we are, by being present, by opening our eyes, ears, hearts, minds and souls to the here and now. To find rather than seek means to uncover and to be present to what’s already here and to who we are, and have always been, in Christ.
What seeking ultimately reveals in the end is that we need not seek at all. Once we realize this — once we discover that we’ve already found and been found — we can rest in peace, understanding that what we’ve found is abundantly available to us.
Abundant love. Abundant peace. Abundant beauty. Abundant freedom. Abundant truth. Our finding is limited only by the boundaries we put it around it.
I sat in the Adirondack chair on the back deck for a long while that afternoon. In time, the clouds over the lake began to break. Bands of sunlight streamed down to the water as dragonflies, lacy wings glinting, swooped low over the lawn and arced back up again, snatching smaller insects from the air.
The sound of a hatchet cracking wood, my husband chopping logs for the fire, pierced the quiet. A hummingbird, jeweled ruby throat, visited the feeder, drinking long and deep from each plastic floret, wings whirring.
The breeze stilled. I unzipped my sweatshirt, leaned my head back against the wood, closed my eyes and felt the sun warm on my face.
We have all, each one of us, found.
We have all, each one of us, been found.
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