The quest for authenticity is all about justification, all about justice, all about being right. Those who set off on quests to “find themselves” can only do so under two possible scenarios. There are those who have already found themselves, and they found themselves when they were found. And when they were found, it was like looking into a mirror for the first time and laughing at how silly they looked. These people who have been found (and subsequently found themselves) set off on the quest for authenticity like a child digging through a toy box looking for his favorite action figure, his favorite hat, his favorite stick. They go looking for themselves like a game of hide-and-seek. They are like Chesterton’s character Innocent Smith who travelled the world in search of his own house, chasing his own hat, and wooing his own wife multiple times under different names just for the fun of it.
But the only other kind of quest for authenticity is the one for those who are still lost. They are looking for themselves because they really have not found themselves, because they have not been found. These lost souls have no favorite hats because they didn’t know they had one. They have no favorite sticks because they were never handed one. They are orphans, homeless, fatherless, and they have nothing in this world. There is no difference for them between being really lost in a real wood and being lost in the whirling universe of a backyard with an imagination and all afternoon. But in salvation, God comes as the Father to the fatherless, the Defender of orphans in their distress, the Finder of the lost. He reconciles all lost souls through the death of His Son, making them right and offering them an inheritance with His Son through the Spirit. Jesus has been seated at the right hand of the Father and has inherited the world. All things belong to Him: all the animals, all plants, all weather, all food, all hobbies, all the sciences, all technologies, all of the nations, and all of the mysteries of the universe that we have not even discovered yet. And if they belong to Jesus, they belong to His people. The universe is our sandbox, our toy box, our backyard.
And this brings us full circle to the quest for authenticity and justification. Justification is the doctrine of play. It means all is right with you, and God, and the world. It means you live your life in the backyard of the universe and you have all afternoon. In Christ all things are yours, all things are free, all things are given. But there are some who come into the church who have not yet shaken their craven, orphan ways. They grasp at sticks and toys and stuff them in their pockets, looking around suspiciously at everyone around them. Or maybe they put on grand shows, displaying their sticks and action figures, their free range chickens and their raw organic milk, winking and nodding, hoping that everyone will believe them now (not realizing that everyone else has been given sticks and action figures too, and Jesus owns all the chickens and milk). And usually you can tell the lost souls by the way they worry all the time about what other people think, what other people might be misunderstanding. But when the lost sons are found and adopted and clothed and given their inheritance it brings peace, a radical, overflowing peace like a lazy Sunday afternoon, like a stream running along merrily in the forest, like deep, belly aching laughter with tears rolling down your cheeks. Those who have been found by their God are always found, always being found, like an epic game of hide and seek, laughing with their God, laughing with their Father.
But those who are lost are really worried, worried about the food they are eating, worried about their hobbies, worried about where they buy their clothes. But don’t worry: We have a Father, and He has made us right.
[Note: this article was originally published by Palouse Living and appears here with permission.]