Lost

I’ve lost a lot of things over the past 6 months. When packing, I try to put things in the same place every time, but it doesn’t always work out for me.

I lost a pocket knife at security when I didn’t realize it was in my carry on bag. I’ve lost a dozen socks at laundromats all over Asia. I lost a rain jacket when it just wouldn’t fit in my bag so I left it at a hostel.

Perhaps one of the most memorable things I lost was a red water bottle.

I was in Malaysia, celebrating Ramadan with my friend Ariel. We’d taken the train to Putrajaya for the day. At the Pink Mosque, we were treated to an amazing behind the scenes tour of the mosque. We got to go in the backroom where the Imams prepare. We saw the wash rooms where people clean their hands, face, and feet before prayer. We went through the banquet halls, gardens, and administrative offices. Ariel converted to Islam in college and had seen dozens of mosques, but I felt very honored that as a non-Muslim I was allowed to see so much. 

At the end of the tour, Izkandar (our guide) invited us to come back for Iftar that night. During Ramadan, Muslims fast from sun up to sundown. At sundown, they gather at the mosque for their evening prayers, and then break their fast with a big feast called Iftar.

We said we’d be back. We then went and did a half dozen other touristy things around Putrajaya. As we returned to the mosque a few hours later, I realized I had lost my red water bottle.

“I’ll go back to the coffee shop and see if it’s there,” I told Ariel. But I knew if I went back, I’d miss Iftar. To be honest, part of me was okay with that. The water bottle was a gift from my boss when we went to Indonesia together. It was slightly sentimental. Plus, I live in a developing country that requires you carry your own water almost every where. I kind of needed the water bottle.

But as I waved down the taxi to go find the bottle, I realized this was a once in a lifetime chance. Non-Muslims rarely get invited into mosques, much less for religious services or festivals. When the taxi stopped, I told him “never mind” and went back to find Ariel.

Jesus spoke about losing things. In both Matthew and Mark he posed the question, “What do you gain if you win the world but lose your life?” I think there are lots of ways we lose our life. We lose relationships. We lose credibility. We lose opportunities. We lose faith. 

That night at the mosque was incredible. I couldn’t pray with Ariel in the women’s quarters but Izkandar took me to the men’s room. I washed up before going to pray. They didn’t have me do all the kneeling and standing (it looked very aerobic) but I sat off to the side. 

Afterwards, we met up with Ariel and all ate together. It was an amazing feast and good fellowship. And I realized, I would have missed it if I went chasing after a lost water bottle.

Loss is a part of life. Some losses are more significant than others (I don’t think water bottles actually rank that high.) But if we spend our lives chasing after the things we lose, we’ll miss what’s in front of us. And what good is chasing the past (maybe successfully, maybe not) if we lose the present moment?

Zach Herzog

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