I sat on the floor crying.
Earlier that day we met my parents and sister and boarded The Lady of the Lake for the four-and-a-half hour cruise up Lake Chelan to the Stehekin, Wash.
It was a beautiful day. And I thought briefly about the opportunity this was to spend time with family.
Then I got all wrapped up in photographing the lake and the mountains.
We had an hour and a half in Stehekin before heading down lake again, and I determined to get a picture of Rainbow Falls. My wife, Tina, persuaded me to stay at the foot of the falls where Mom and Dad were headed. But not to be entirely thwarted, I climbed down to make a picture of the stream.
It wasn’t until we were back on the bus that I realized I’d lost my wedding ring.
Then just before parting ways at the home pier, we had a fellow passenger take our family picture using my phone.
Mom wanted a picture on her camera too. But somehow I ignored her.
As we headed home, it hit me. I remembered the last time we took that cruise, 27ish years ago, with extended family, and grandpa and grandma who are no longer with us. I might have other opportunities to love my wife, my parents, my sister, but the opportunities of that day were gone.
Sitting on the floor at home, I felt helpless to fix it. My efforts in the present or what I planned to do in the future could not recover what was lost that day.
For a Christian, called specifically in the Bible to love God and love others, these missed opportunities are not unfortunate misses along the road to a nice life but failures of my heart to take shape. I wanted to punish myself and hide like Adam and Eve did, even from God.
But this is also when the promise of “beauty for ashes” means the most. This is when God comes and finds us. This is when the sin-destroying love and mercy of God in Christ yanks us from the shadows and exposes the sinfulness even of our efforts to improve. And when all else is burned away, the promises of God remain.