Searching for the lost

There are countless children’s games that involve searching for something that is hidden. When our children and grandchildren were infants, we used to place a facecloth over their eyes and say, “Where’s . . . “ Then the child would pull the cloth from their face and laugh at the surprise of being able to see us once again. This peek-a-boo game evolves naturally into a game of hide and seek. I remember when our grandson was young he used to love to play hide and seek over Skype. I would crawl under the table or into a closet and then my wife would carry around the computer so that the camera pointed into nooks and crannies around our house until it finally pointed to the place where I was hiding. Great giggles followed while our grandson found a place to hide and his father would carry around the computer looking for him. The game is even better when we are together and we’ve played it with a lot of children. As long a boundaries are respected and there is attention to not frightening the child the game is wonderful. Knowing that you will be found makes hiding bearable.

Games of hiding and searching for that which is lost have been around for millennia. Some of those games have been formalized into rituals. The Passover Haggadah, the official book of liturgy for the observance of Passover, contains a section called Tzafun or the search for the hidden. Toward the end of the meal the children are sent to look for the afikoman which has been hidden by the leader. Neither the meal nor the Seder can be concluded before some of the group has eaten a piece of it. Whoever finds the afikoman can demand a reward.The afikoman is a piece of matzah which is to be the last thing tasted at the meal.

Faithful Jews have been observing the Seder since before the time of Christ. Somewhere during Roman times the practice of eating hard boiled eggs as part of the Seder observance became common. A boiled egg is now considered to be an essential part of the Seder plate.

Christins, who freely adopted Jewish customs and added customs from other sources as well and then gave them new meanings, somehow ended up with the custom of searching for hidden eggs. The Easter Egg hunt has become a part of Easter observances. Even those who have no religious affiliation participate with joy in the search for eggs, which these days are more likely to be candy than the eggs of chickens.

We love to search for the hidden.

But we don’t find special pleasure in having treasured items that have become lost. When I was younger, I sometimes would grow so frustrated when an object was lost that I couldn’t be rational in my search. I ran around randomly looking, but not being systematic in my search. I had to learn to calm down, relax, and look more carefully. I remember a conversation with my wife in the early years of our marriage when we compared the feeling of having something lost as opposed to having an object that was broken. If I remember the conversation accurately, I found it much more difficult and frustrating to deal with something that was lost. With a broken item, a repair could be attempted. With a lost item, there wasn’t much to do. My wife took the opposing point of view. With a lost item, you could calmly search and you have a good chance of finding the item. With a broken item, you know the it is damaged and may be damaged beyond repair. Having two different perspectives has been good for both of us and over the years we have learned to see the other’s point of view more clearly.

A lot of people from our county have been searching for two months now for a little lost one. 9-year-old Serenity Dennard ran away from Black Hills Children’s Home, a youth treatment center on February 3. It was bitterly cold that day and a search was initiated. With each passing hour the chances of her survival dimmed. The Sheriff’s office and teams from Pennington County Search and Rescue employed the best equipment and techniques for the search. Helicopters and dogs were brought in to assist. 14 dogs with 5 different search specialties have been employed. Teams of searchers, stretching out in lines and covering the rugged terrain have searched back and forth. Meanwhile a team of investigators have been searching, without success, for any clue that might point to an abduction. Billboards have been posted. Pictures of the girl have gone out over law enforcement networks all around the region. Over 335 people have been interviewed, including potential out-of-state sightings. Search warrants have been issued.

So far it remains a mystery.

Today 30 - 40 people will be out looking once again. The searchers know that if they find something it will reveal that the little girl is not only lost, but also irreparably broken. The bitter cold since she was lost means that survival outdoors is impossible. Too much time has passed without anyone being able to find her to render assistance. The weather is good. The search can be effective and safe for searchers.

As one of the Sheriff’s Chaplains, I’ll be out there early with some air pots filled with coffee and do what I can to support the professional searchers. I’ll lend my eyes as I am able and do chores and run errands that need to be done. I’ll also be prepared to chat with frustrated and tired searchers and have a prayer ready for the end of another search without finding, or, on the other hand another prayer ready in the event that something is found. Either way, Serenity is in God’s loving and eternal care. Prayers are in order.

And I’ll continue to pray for our community. The search has, despite everyone’s best efforts, become political. Tempers have flared. Accusations of mishandled search days and mistakes made have been registered. The game is no longer fun, but the search continues.

Perhaps the ancients had it right. The search is an essential lesson of faith and our lives cannot resume their normal course until the lost is found. I pray that we are open to learning the lessons that are in this search. And I pray that the search will reach its conclusion soon. Please join your prayers to mine.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!