In church this past Sunday, the gospel reading was Luke 15:1-10 which contains the lost-and-found parables (The Lost Sheep and The Lost Silver Coin). The priest started her sermon by asking us a question…. Had we ever been lost? She then went on to tell a personal story about a time in 1959 when she got lost as a young girl in the first grade one afternoon when she convinced her mother to let her walk home from school with a friend– that she knew the way and would be able to make it home just fine. How she reached a point in this walk home where she “had absolutely no idea in God’s creation where she was or where she was supposed to walk next.” She told how she and her friend were standing on a street corner lost, afraid, and crying, and how she was “ready to be found.” Thankfully, a very nice lady rescued her and took her home where she flew into her mother’s arms.
I don’t recall ever being lost as a child (although I’m sure I probably was). I do however remember one of the most terrifying moments of my life as a young mother, when my first-born son who was only two years old, became lost. I had taken him with a friend of mine and her two-year old son to a nearby florist/nursery to a Christmas open house. There was a greenhouse outside of this florist that we visited first because that’s where Santa was. Santa greeted our sons in this greenhouse, let them sit in his lap, and presented them with a sucker at the end of their visit.
After the visit with Santa, we left the greenhouse with our happy children, walked across a little pathway, and into the floral shop, where I was in search of a cornucopia. It was very crowded inside. We drank some punch and shopped around. My friend found something she wanted to purchase and asked me to watch her little boy so she could get in line and pay the cashier. When she was done, I had found my cornucopia, and asked my friend to watch MY son while I checked out. While she was standing there, she ran into someone she knew, and in the nanosecond that it took her to greet her acquaintance, my son vanished. About the same time, I finished paying for my purchase and went to my friend and looked down, but didn’t see my son. My friend assured me that he couldn’t have gone far as “he was JUST HERE!” The room was packed like sardines and we frantically started weaving in and out of people looking for my little boy. He was nowhere to be found.
This floral shop was on a very busy highway and I suddenly became panicked, thinking he might have run outside and made it to the road. I made a beeline for the door. An employee saw my panic-stricken face and inquired as to what the problem was. I explained that my two-year old son had disappeared. She told me to stay put by the door and ran for help. Other employees came to my assistance and a young man (who I’m guessing was the manager), told me to stay where I was, and NOT to go in search of my son, that THEY would look for him. He stressed that he needed me to stay where I was. They asked for a description of my son and asked what he was wearing. I still remember vividly what he was wearing that day– green corduroy pants, and a shirt with green, blue, and white horizontal stripes on it.
Worst case scenarios started going through my head. Had my son been abducted? I didn’t want to stay put as they had asked me to. I felt helpless and I wanted to go in search of my little boy. A sickening feeling descended upon me. I began silently pleading with God to find my son. Five minutes passed (which seemed like hours) when the now-smiling manager came walking up from the greenhouse carrying my little boy in his arms. He had been found in the greenhouse visiting (or should I say REVISITING) Santa. My little boy had a smile on his face a mile wide and he was grasping another sucker in his little hand. My son was put in my arms and I began to weep. I was literally shaking with fear. That day I learned as a young mother, just how quickly a child can get away from you. I never forgot it.
Lately, I’ve felt lost, but in a different kind of way. Not so much lost physically, but lost emotionally. This whole year has been difficult with having to deal with a massive sinkhole that formed in our backyard suddenly in January, some struggles with our young adult children away at college, the tragic death of a good friend three months ago (the same friend I had gone with to the florist that day in the story above), and then the loss of my much-loved 19-year-old cat three weeks ago. Frankly, most days, I haven’t felt like even getting out of bed. I’ve wanted to run away–escape reality. And quite honestly, throughout my trials, I’ve asked myself where God is in all of this? I’ve needed him to rescue this lost strayed sheep but he has felt far away– out of my reach.
I only had to be reminded Sunday that our God is a God of the lost– that Jesus will leave the 99 sheep behind in the wilderness to go and find that one lost sheep. And He’ll find it. He always does. How comforting that was for me to hear that. And how I NEEDED to hear it!
And in answer to my question as to where God is during all my trials? The Sunday school lesson showed me that it’s during our storms that He’s right here with us, holding us close in His arms. He’s been here all along… carrying me. He never left me. Sunday, I needed to be reminded of that too.
The Parable of the Lost Sheep
15 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
The Parable of the Lost Coin
8 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins[a] and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”