I wanted to have this article published nearly two months ago, but with the difficulty of the subject matter and busyness of life, I had to delay it. My wife and I (somewhat) recently went to see the movie Mary Poppins Returns in theaters and I was captivated by how well done the movie was. However, I was particularly drawn in by a song in the movie called “The Place Where Lost Things Go”. (Some spoilers ahead!) This song is about Mary Poppins finding a way to comfort the three children in the film (Anabel, John, & Georgie) who had recently lost their mother. To add to their confusion about losing their mother, their father (Michael Banks) is dealing with financial instability while trying to keep up with the craziness of life and fatherhood without his wife, whom it seems he has had little time to properly grieve. This is where Mary Poppins swoops in to save the day, providing some much needed counsel to the children that Michael is not ready, and perhaps not able, to provide.
Here are the first two stanzas of the song (I’m attaching the link so you can also listen here!):
Do you ever lie awake at night / Just between the dark and the morning light / Searching for the things you used to know / Looking for the place where the lost things go / Do you ever dream or reminisce / Wondering where to find what you truly miss / Or maybe all those things that you love so / Are waiting in the place where the lost things go
Memories you’ve shed gone for good you feared / They’re all around you still though they’ve disappeared / Nothing’s really left or lost without a trace / Nothing’s gone forever only out of place / So maybe now the dish and my best spoon / Are playing hide and seek just behind the moon / Waiting there until it’s time to show / Spring is like that now far beneath the snow / Hiding in the place where the lost things go
The Sting of Death
Over the past few years serving as a youth pastor, I have stood with families who have lost their loved ones in what has sadly, and too often, been a terrible tragedy. I have held, consoled, and prayed with grieving mothers, fathers, children, and other relatives as they wept over their lost loved ones. Often times I am asked questions that only God can answer, but with tears in their eyes looking for an inkling of hope in my reply, I often have little to say that would be of much use; nor dare I say much. Herein lies the cold reality of death; its apparent permanence. Nothing can be done to alter the new reality of the bereaved, now void of the person they cherished so dearly. And no human words can be uttered that change that. But rather, for the grieving, they must undergo a process of learning how to live without them.
Part of the healing process requires having the time to truly grieve. Therefore, part of my job is to give someone that opportunity by providing the consolation of being present with them and offering support, encouragement, or space as needed. I so deeply wish that these times were easier to handle. I find myself at times longing for more answers and peace during this time on Earth, especially as I reflect on the loss of friends and loved ones in my own life… the suffering and deterioration of cancer… the dark abyss of depression and suicide… the horror of sudden devastating loss…
Searching for Hope
The lyrics of this song both sadden me and bring me hope. They bring sadness, because of the tragic reality of death. And hope, because there is comfort in knowing, first and foremost, that those we’ve lost are not really “gone”. A popular opinion of many that stands directly opposed to the spiritual reality of life is that there is actually no life after death. Not only would this mean that there is no hope to see those whom we’ve lost again, let alone God Himself, but it would effectively nullify our attempts at reaching an objectively meaningful understanding of the purpose of our fleeting lives. For many of these types, the telos (“end/goal”) is simply death and destruction. Thus, life is about doing anything that arbitrarily satisfies us for a little while as we await that end. Yeah, right! I could go on, and on, and on about a multitude of reasons for why I strongly disagree with this notion, but I’ll save both of us some time.
Secondly, there is hope that one day we may have the opportunity to see those whom we’ve lost again! This moment of revelation and joy will be revealed to us like the bloom of Spring, although for a time, it remains “far beneath the snow”. This concept is heavily reflected in Christian doctrine. Because of the death & subsequent resurrection of Christ, there is hope for a resurrection to eternal life wherein we may see others who have died. Moreover, this everlasting life will be lived out in the dwelling place of God. This being a newly established dwelling place, the city of Light on a renewed Earth, where there will be no more sin, pain, death, or suffering and the saints will see the face of God (Revelation 21:3-4, 22:1-5). Consider these teachings from Jesus throughout the Gospel of John:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24, NASB; emphasis added)
“For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:40, NASB; emphasis added)
And in 1 Peter 1:3-5 it says:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (NASB; emphasis added)
What a tremendous hope that we who are in Christ have! Of course, it is important to note that not all will end up in Heaven. I certainly don’t say this lightly, but with reverence for God and the testimony of His Word. For John clearly notes that not only did God love the world enough to sacrifice His Son to die for it (John 3:16), but that the very reason He died was to offer redemption to humanity. Because of our sin against God, who created and sustains us in this remarkable Creation, and our unbelief in Christ (at least for a time for us Christians), we were already on a trajectory of condemnation, awaiting the day when we will be accountable to God for Judgment (John 3:17-18). Oftentimes, Heaven is treated like a punch-card; if you get it filled up by going to church or being nice enough then you will make it! Not quite… Eternal life is a gift of God; the result of repentance and belief in God, through the resurrection of Christ. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23, NIV).
Says Who? Judge Not!
On that note, it is quite literally not in our power to judge the eternal state of a person, no matter how wicked or good a person’s actions in life may have been. Although, this may give us a reasonable indication. God is the only perfectly just, loving, impartial, and merciful Judge who has the power and ability to reach us with His Word and through the power of His Spirit, even at the moments preceding death. Therefore, He alone holds the right to judge in this way.
A person can seem perfectly good and charitable on the outside, yet they may in fact be murderous and utterly wicked within, even to the end of their days. Contrarily, one could be a menace to society and outwardly wicked most of their lives, but could repent and believe in God, thus transforming their hearts right before the end (e.g. the thief on the cross). Therefore, salvation is not a matter of scales, possessions, or good deeds, as is with several other religions, but rather it is a matter of the cross of Christ. It comes down to whether one is willing to “crucify” their sinful self with Christ on the cross.
Nevertheless, it is very comforting know with near certainty that those whom we have lost, having witnessed the fruit of a relationship with the Lord and devotion to Him in their life, are indeed in a better place now! Through Christ, we have a real and living hope to see them again. Even if this is mere hope, perhaps from seeing a lack of faith in Christ in their life through their final days, we can still hold fast to the hope offered through Christ. We can hope that similar to the thief on the cross, there was a moment near their death where they made peace with God through Christ. We have a good God who judges perfectly. Without Christ, nor God’s mercy,, there would be no hope for this.
Gone, But Not Forgotten
Here is the last stanza of the song:
Time to close your eyes so sleep can come around / For when you dream you find all that’s lost is found / Maybe on the moon / Or maybe somewhere new maybe all you’re missing lives inside of you / So when you need her touch and loving gaze / Gone but not forgotten is the perfect phrase / Smiling from a star that she makes flow / Trust she’s always there watching as you grow / Find her in the place where the lost things go
The truth of the matter is that during this sojourn on Earth, we can remember those we have lost through the sharing of memories and reminiscing with items and photos that remind us of our time with them. In this way, the memory and testimony of their lives remains with us. However, while their body remains here, their soul has truly gone “where the lost things go”. For now, they really are no longer with us. Despite the idea being popularized and sentimental, they have not become a “guardian angel” but instead (if they are in Christ) will be in the dwelling place of the Lord after they die and will receive a glorified body (2 Corinthians 5:8). While time may erode our memory of those we’ve lost, we look forward with grateful hearts to the day where we can be reunited with them, where new memories will be made, where we will rejoice alongside them for eternity in the majesty of the presence of God… What a glorious hope we have!