I was reading an interpretation of a favorite scripture last week and was a little jarred when I saw the word “search” instead of “seek”, “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened" (Matthew 7:7-8 NRSV).
I’m enough of a linguist to understand that there are fine nuances of meaning inherent in every word, but the version I’ve loved through the years uses the word “seek” rather than “search”. This small mental exercise in critical thinking assured me that my brain is working, at least well enough to muse and ponder. After about a decade of feeling like I’ve been on cerebral autopilot, having the leisure to pause over a word or thought seems like a luxury.
Searching suggests that something recoverable is lost. If you think about it, we spend a vast amount of time in life searching. We use a searchlight to explore every nook and cranny when someone or something is lost. The news regularly reports the outcome of search and rescue missions. We search online for goods or information or a vast array of services, both beneficial and questionable. Perhaps the beloved childhood game should really be called “Hide and Search” – we know our hiding will be discovered when the one who’s searching finds our safe place.
Because we have an expectation of finding, we look high and low, broad and wide until we’re reunited with whatever it is we’ve misplaced or has gone missing. When we grieve some of us spend our emotional energy searching for our loved one – they’re lost to us, we’re lost without them. We search the physical place and landscape of our life for remnants of their presence. In vain we await their return, searching, searching, searching for the assurance that they’re not forever lost to our lives.
After my husband died I wrote an entire memoir about my search for the remains of his physical DNA. The loss of his physical presence was, for a while, utterly incomprehensible. Instinctively I listened at the back door, expecting to hear his car, his familiar footsteps and him - whole and well - greeting me in exuberant love. Deep within, my mind understood the reality of my loss, yet my heart kept searching for the one who was lost - my husband, the great love of my life.
When we're seeking rather than searching, we're about something deep and intentional. Seeking is more of a lifelong endeavor. Seeking goes far beyond searching, though in both we’re looking for recovery. Often our quest is unclear until we take the first step and then the next. In truth, seeking is sometimes a hard trudge through the muck and mire of our life. Seeking requires gritty persistence, spiritual fortitude, and the hope of faith.
In our deep longing for comfort as we grieve we actively seek - we’re looking for ways not just to feel better, but to be better. Seeking is the cooperative work of our heart and mind and soul and spirit to grow and live in the presence of God, “‘Come,’ my heart says, ‘seek his face!’ Your face, Lord, do I seek” (Psalm 27:8 NRSV). We search for the transient things of life that come and go. When we grieve we go deeper - we seek the sustained peace and sufficiency of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness to us now and forevermore.
And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.
Psalm 9:10 NRSV
Keep me this day, O God, in the joy of seeking. Amen.