Something Is Missing… what is it?

Something is missing. That’s all I can say. I take my hands off the wheel and lean back in my seat, gazing, more intently now, at the sunset through my windshield.
“What is it?” I wonder. “Why am I not captivated by this scene?”
The month is September. It’s 6:24 in the evening, and for the past twenty minutes or so I’ve been stuck in the westbound traffic of HWY 22. All this time, I’ve been looking at a beautiful sunset through my windshield. What’s funny is; I haven’t even realized it. I’ve been stuck in some kind of trance. And now that I’m aware of it, I’m concerned at how I can be so unmoved. Why have I reacted to this sunset as though it was just a billboard?
I feel like an apathetic judge at a talent show, yawning; not really expecting to be impressed, and therefore missing great talent as it slips by. Something is missing. My mind races to solve the mystery of what.
I look around for things to blame. Maybe it’s the time of day. The angle of the sun in the sky. The proportion of clouds to the space. But this is silly. I can’t blame what I am seeing, because I know the problem lies in what I’m seeing things with – my eyes.
They say beauty is the eye of the beholder, but lately I haven’t thought so. The only beauty I’ve seen is that which is totally obvious; bold, flamboyant specimens of it. Who’s got talent? The best singers. The best dancers. Beauty is seen only where it’s being pointed out, flaunted, or paraded.
This goes a lot deeper than just this sunset I’ve been staring at. I’ve also lost sight of the beauty in everything else. My job. My relationships. My faith. It’s like I’ve developed some type of A.D.D of the heart.
I’ve come to see it as a person’s fault if I’ve stopped seeing the image of God in him. My spouse’s fault for how she is (or isn’t) making me feel. The fault of a rose if it stops pleasing me, or a sunset if it doesn’t stir me. But these things aren’t responsible for my perspective of them. Only I am.
My heart has become like a burnt tongue after sipping hot coffee, unable to taste some of the most meaningful things. Love is just a word that you see in candy hearts on Valentine’s Day. Grace is just a song about something amazing. Freedom is just a place I have to look forward to in retirement. Peace is just a round emblem on some Volkswagen campers.
God. Who is He? The unshaven, sunken-eyed stranger in all those paintings? A being who sits on a cloud somewhere, holding a giant book? Surely, holiness is more than my gray imagination depicts. More than a common word thrown around to convey excitement. Holy cow, Batman, where’d my perspective go?
Maybe you too, have felt this numbness of heart. Maybe you’ve seen it infecting those around you, and how it threatens everything we hold dear: our marriages, the value we once saw in our friendships, families, faith, and possessions.
Something is missing. Is it bravery? Life’s excitement? The person you once were? This mysterious, sensed loss, may be the single, most unifying grievance in our world today; a world where it’s more common than ever for people to walk out on marriages, to give up on God, to be enslaved to addiction, to end their lives – many while bearing the name “Christian.”
We know we’re not imagining it, but there’s something I don’t think we’re aware of. That the change we’re seeing isn’t really what’s changed. What’s changed the most isn’t even a thing at all, but rather, our place on the timeline. The problem isn’t what we see. It’s when we see it.
For most of us, there was a time when we didn’t feel this way. At some point, life made a whole lot more sense. We weren’t so empty. The path ahead felt surer and brighter, offering us a greater sense of purpose.
But then, it’s like we woke up one morning, and all of that clarity was gone. We weren’t sure how long it had been that way. We just knew our worlds didn’t make as much sense. They weren’t quite as beautiful, and they didn’t offer us as much fulfillment.
So, to find what’s missing, maybe we can try to retrace our steps. Let’s look back… to the start.
Chapter One
The Start
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