Cell phones get lost. Earing's fall out. Toddlers toddle off. Teenagers forget to check in. Coins fall out of pockets. Edward Tulane got lost. Edward is well dressed, proud, and not to concerned about anyone else in the world. Edward is a china rabbit doll. Edward can think, and Edward can feel, but Edward can do nothing to save himself. When he finds himself on the bottom of the ocean, he cannot close his eyes, he cannot move, he can only lay there. When he finds himself on the bottom of the ocean Edward can do nothing to be found. It is an astonishing metaphor, being stuck on the bottom of the ocean and not being able to do anything about it. Maybe you have felt that way, maybe you know someone who has felt that way.
A china rabbit lying on the bottom of the ocean is an image that points to the real pain that goes with the real joy of living. Growing up includes real pain, real heartbreak and real joy. We tend to tell two stories about growing up: one that it is all sunshine and lollipops and blissful graduations into ever widening freedom. But there is another story. It is the story that explains why most of the Psalms are laments. It is the story that everybody knows, it hurts to grow up. The first time you get meanly, cruelly dumped. The first time you gave it your all and still failed. The Breakfast Club, Stand by Me, Mean Girls, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, high school is hell and to survive you must work with your friends and pray it will all be over soon. Growing from childhood to adulthood is about learning to be a steward of pain: managing the hardships, finding the blessing that lies within them, and learning to keep on moving on. Edward the china rabbit gets lifted from the ocean floor, but later finds himself laying in a trash heap and then strung up as a scarecrow.
Maybe you have felt that way too. Maybe, just a little bit. Maybe that is why you gather with a community and with God when you could be sipping latte's elsewhere. You go because even with all your privileges and blessings you still feel something is missing. Maybe you are a proud china rabbit who feels like he is lying at the bottom of the sea. You go because raising children is a trying adventure, and you know you cannot be found by doing nothing at all. In the Gospels parables like the ‘found coin’ and the ‘found sheep’ are immediately followed by the story of the ‘forgiving father’, more commonly called the parable of the prodigal son. Sometimes we are like that so called prodigal son, joyfully tripping into our own lostness. There are times when we are like the sheep: we have heard the directions, but simply lack the talent to follow them. Then there are the times when we are like the coin, and get lost by the fault of nobody at all.
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is by Kate DiCamillo. Intended for young readers, it is a fine story for all ages, and rather appropriate during Lent and Holy Week. I have also leaned on the book when working with distressed young teens. Edward Tulane begins his story being able to love, but only himself and the little girl who owns him. Some of us are like that. Some of the people we love can be like that. Each time Edward gets found he has to learn to love more widely, more freely, more charitably. And the lesson for those times when we feel like we are stuck in the middle of a trash heap, the lesson is that Edward doesn't stay lost, even when he is lost. He doesn’t stay broken, on the inside or the outside. He evolves. He grows. Again and again he rises from what seems like the deepest darkest pit. He does not become truly lost because of his love. Love for a little girl, love for a lonely woman, a homeless man and a sick child. Edward doesn't stay lost because he learns how to be loved by the unfamiliar and the castaway. Edward, an immobile, stiff, stuffed china rabbit is found because he learns how to love.