December 1, 2023 | Todd Little, CFP®, AIF®
SuperheroDo you know what saying I hate? “You always find something in the last place you look.”It’s so pointless and self-evident. For anyone not to say that means they at some point had to be searching for a lost object, found it, and then… continued searching.In fact, if you’ve ever done that, I’d love to hear your story. How long did you continue searching? How many more places did you look?Be forewarned, though. If you do share such a story with me, there’s a good chance I will “lose” your address for next year’s letter.One of my superpowers – and I don’t have many – is being able to find lost items. Not mine, mind you. That would imply that I lose things. And I really don’t. It drives my family crazy, but it’s true.You know what else drives them crazy? I also rarely spill. It’s gotten to the point where if I do spill something at the dinner table, they will literally cheer. It gets a funny response in restaurants as you don’t normally see a spill being celebrated.Maybe I have more superpowers than I realized – I don’t lose things, I don’t spill, and I can find lost things. Okay, so there will never be a Marvel movie made about me, but I come in handy from time to time... at least with my family… and at least as far as being able to find lost items. (If they did make a movie, I’m thinking Brad Pitt or Ryan Reynolds to play me. Stop it… my movie, my casting. Who’s playing Becky? Oh, nice try. I’m not touching that one.)You see, Becky and Marissa do lose things. Maybe not a lot, but enough. Besides, it’s not always about how many things you lose, but how important is the item you lost.I should give them some credit. If it weren’t for them, I might not even know I had this ability. It all started with Becky. And it all started with pens.
Yep, pens. The gateway item of lost items. You start with losing pens, then it’s glasses, cell phones… and the next thing you know, you’re losing children in malls. But I’m getting ahead of myself.Our home is two stories, and, like most people, we have telephones in several rooms. (I know, this may seem foreign to some of our younger audience, but you used to have multiple phones in different rooms in your home. They even had wires that plugged into the wall. Crazy, right?)I always kept pens by the phones, so if you had to take a message, you could quickly write it down without having to waste time locating a pen.The only problem was every time I needed to write something down, the pen was gone. I guess technically Becky did not lose the pen, but she would pick up the pen to write something down… and just not put it back down. She would take the pen with her, eventually leaving it someplace else, just never where I needed it or thought it might be.I learned quickly to go downstairs to the kitchen phone, inevitably to find easily a dozen pens, as though they were somehow capable of multiplying like rabbits.Again, finding pens is nothing special. In fact, rather than waste my time looking, I simply bought a lot of pens and kept them all over the house, like a squirrel hiding food in the hopes of finding it when needed.But car keys? Yes, they are important. Sometimes you can measure how important something is by how expensive it is. And car keys are expensive – especially when you’re talking about these newfangled key fobs that aren’t really keys, but little remote controls.Anyway, one day Becky loses her key fob. I tried to summon my powers, and I looked everywhere, but I’m ashamed to say, in this instance, Becky’s ability to lose something surpassed my ability to find it. I was determined that this would be the last time that happened.Narrator: That would indeed NOT be the last time that happened.In the meantime, we were still able to drive the van because I always know where my car key fob is. I find (pun intended) that if you always put something in the same place, odds are it will be there when you need it. Amazing concept, huh?With great shame, I resigned myself to the fact that I’d have to call the dealership to order a replacement key fob. After all, what happens if we lose my key fob? (And by “we” I mean “Becky.”)Thankfully, and because of another of my superpowers – procrastination – I didn’t have to, because within the week, Becky found it. Where? In a tissue box inside the center console – which has a cover that you have to open to access – in the van. She used up the last tissue in the van and when she went to throw out the box, something was rattling around inside and, lo and behold, it was the key fob. How did it get there? I have no superpower that will answer that question.Granted, one week is not a long time to have lost something. In our family, that’s not even in the top ten. The record for the longest time something was lost in our family belongs to my mother-in-law. Her record is six months. What did she lose for half a year that she eventually found? A hamburger. I’ll give you a moment to let that sink in. A hamburger.She had come to our house for a dinner of grilled hamburgers. Since she lived alone and did not have a grill, I grilled an extra hamburger for her to take home. (I bet my mother-in-law thinks I’m a superhero. Don’t ask her, just take my word for it.)The next morning, she was so excited to eat her hamburger that she decided to have it for breakfast. But it wasn’t in her refrigerator. She looked for it everywhere but could not find it. She even called us to ask if she had forgotten to take it home with her, so we knew she had lost it.She eventually found it, six months later, under the seat of her car. I still think that could’ve been a Ziploc commercial – no one who rode in her car during that time ever smelled a six-month old hamburger. And, no, she didn’t eat it… Ziploc is not that good.It was at this point that I began to fear that losing things might be genetic. You know what they say, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. (That’s another saying that I think is dumb. Then again, in our family, if the apple did fall far from the tree, the tree would lose it.)This does not bode well for Marissa. She comes from a long line of losers. (Wait, that didn’t come out right.)If Marissa is lucky, she will also inherit my ability to find things and they will cancel each other out like a bad math equation. There is actually some supporting evidence for this. Not too long ago, Marissa came home and announced excitedly, “I found my birth certificate!”My shock was not that she found it so much as that I hadn’t known she had it AND lost it in the first place.Speaking of superpowers canceling each other out, Becky and I found ourselves in another situation where our abilities were at odds. We had traveled to Texas for a family wedding and were staying in a hotel. In this particular showdown, pitted against Becky’s ability to lose things was my ability to sleep in.Becky left the room to eat some breakfast and go for a morning walk while I was still asleep. Unfortunately, when she returned, she could not find her room key. (Once again, we call something a key that really is not – hotel keys are more like credit cards. Maybe if I stop calling things “keys” Becky will stop losing them.)Either way, she can’t find it and since I’m still asleep, she can’t get into the room. She texts me to let her know when I’m awake and goes to the breakfast area to wait.She didn’t have to wait long. Did I wake up and let her in? No. Did she go to the front desk and ask for another key? No. She spotted a room key lying by the oatmeal. Can you believe that it was her room key and not some other hotel guest that left their room key by the oatmeal?She did go for another walk the next day, but this time she used double-sided tape to attach the key to her side. (And you thought I only want to keep my keys separate because I don’t want to lose them.)At this point, you might be thinking to yourself, “Todd, you mentioned your super ability to find lost things, but so far, you’ve only told stories about lost things you didn’t find. And you’re getting to the end of the letter. (Please tell me you’re getting to the end.)”And you’d be right. The truth is, I had a great idea in mind about how to end this year’s letter… but then I lost it. The idea, not my mind. I think.EpilogueMuch of our lives has to do with losing things that we hope to find again, doesn’t it? We lose time, money, relationships We lose our way. We lose health and beauty. We lose people to distance, to other commitments, to unresolvable conflict. We lose our peace. We lose our joy.God sees our pain over what we lose. He cares about each tear we cry in our losses, each frustration we express in anger, each night we lie in bed questioning. We cannot reach Him, so He reaches out to us. He offers us Immanuel, God with us.Christmas isn’t about tinsel and glitter and gifts. It isn’t about the perfect holiday. It isn’t even about the wonderful times with family. It is about God with us, with us in our broken world, with us in our moments of disappointment, loneliness and discouragement, with us as we feel the pain of what we lose.He doesn’t just send a baby: he sends Himself. He lowers Himself to become human. When He says to you, “I get it,” He can say that because He knows what it is like to be human. When He says to you, “I care,” you can know it is true because He chose to enter your broken world.If that were the whole story it would be a sweet, sentimental, touching Christmas tale, but it wouldn’t do you much good. While there is no substitute for an all-powerful, all-loving God’s nearness, let’s face it, a good friend will be with you in your mess. Heck, your dog will be with you in your mess.God holds out a gift to you, a gift that will ultimately give you back everything you have ever lost. In what seems either ironic or sad to me, people sometimes don’t want his gift. People like to earn things. They want to earn back what they have lost. They spend their whole lives trying to do just that.Yes, you have to take a knee and bow before the Creator of the universe, humble yourself before the all-powerful King of heaven and earth, but I have come to love that God rescuing me is a gift I could never earn. What some think of as bad news – that I could never be good enough for God – is immeasurably outweighed by the freedom that I never even have to try.Will God one day really give us back everything? Actually, only the good things. Revelations 21:4 does tell us what we won’t get back. “…There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain…” Now there is a loss I will be happy to take.Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,Todd, Becky and Marissa Little