I haven't seen my four year old daughter for several days.
In her place (her room, her car seat, her chair at the breakfast table) however, I have had the pleasure of spending time with a lost bunny, a lost dog, a lost princess, R2-D2, C-3PO, Santa Clause, and a little boy named Garret (complete with backwards baseball cap, shown at left) who has just moved into the neighborhood.
Any time I have tried to call the little blond person who looks just like my daughter Livie, "Livie," I have been corrected.
"Mom, did you forget? I'm R2-D2, remember?"
With the exception of Santa Clause, all of these characters have been displaced persons of some kind. Each of them has been looking for room and board, and perhaps even adoption. All need lots of love and attention. All would like to hear stories about our family. And all enjoy being a person of novelty in our household. A big part of the role I'm playing is being very, very excited to have found this person/animal/droid.
What is it with children and being found? My friend Josie, a deep thinker and broad reader (can you guess why we're friends) told me the other day about a parenting book she read that said from very early days of play, children want to be sought and found. Even peak-a-boo is about this. Hide and seek, too, of course.
Children's literature is full of orphans and lost children. Anne of Green Gables, Annie, Oliver Twist, Simba, Mogley from the Jungle Book, Sarah Crew in The Little Princess, Cinderella. Need I go on? Our hearts break for their loss, their ache. And we cheer when someone finds them and decides to love them.
Why aren't there more stories of children just being loved by two parents from start to finish? Well, they just aren't as compelling; they lack drama. Which is why, I believe, that Livie is acting out being lost and found over and over again. From Mom and Dad love is automatic; it's our duty to love her. But if she's a lost rabbit, a stray dog, or an exiled princess and we choose to love her? Well, that's exciting. That really makes her special.
Josie and I think all this attraction to the lost and found is a primal, spiritual need of humans born into a broken world to be sought, found, chosen, adopted, and loved. It is the story of the Bible start to finish. The Old Testament is exile and redemption over and over again. Jesus' parables were often about the lost: a lost coin, a lost sheep, a lost (prodigal) son. The common denominator was always the persistent seeker who rejoices when he/she can finally shout, "Found!"
I'm so glad that God found me and adopted me. I'm grateful his love wasn't rote or automatic, but that He sought me out even though He didn't have to, even though it cost Him dearly, and then He rejoiced when I agreed to get found. And I like these games of Livie's, this opportunity to show her that I love her, not because I have to, but because I choose to. And I will seek, find, and adopt her -- whatever name she takes -- over and over again.