Have you ever been lost? I have. I am directionally challenged (to put it nicely). So, I know (a little too well) the frustration and insecurities that are included with being lost. I know the feelings of fear, confusion, anger, and helplessness of being lost. I also know the relief and comfort that come from finding your way, getting help, or being found. I have definitely been lost, both physically and spiritually.
This morning as I was praying, I started thinking about the “Lost Sheep” and “The Prodigal Son.” I was reminded about a time when my son was lost for a few minutes at the Zoo this last fall. And for the first time, I began to see these stories from a completely different perspective.
We had gone to the Zoo to spend a beautiful autumn day. My kids and I met up with my aunt and adult cousin. We were spending the day just enjoying the animals and discussing whether each animal was an herbivore, carnivore, or omnivore. The entire time, my oldest pushed the boundaries on how far he could go. He would go just far enough that I would have to remind him to stay where I could see him. He would stay behind looking at an animal just long enough that I would need to tell him to come on.
After lunch, I needed to talk to one of my children and have him help me clean up. My aunt and cousin took the other kids to the bathroom just around the corner. My aunt sat on the bench outside and waited with the baby, while my cousin took the girls into the bathroom. I came back with the other child and walked him into the bathroom. Then I sat down next to my aunt and started talking.
Suddenly I heard my oldest son call, “MOM!” He sounded scared. I jumped to my feet and checked both bathrooms. He was nowhere to be seen. I ran around the building, he was not there. I checked my phone to make sure he did have someone try to call me. Then I followed the path in which I knew I heard the voice. Within a matter of minutes, I saw him with another set of parents obviously looking for me.
I called out his name. No quicker than I said his name, he was in my arms. He hugged me so tightly I thought he would never let go. I thanked the couple for helping him. Then we walked back to the rest of our group still interlocked in a side hug.
We were both overwhelmed with emotions, but I was so grateful to have my son back in my arms! And that boy did not leave my side for the rest of the trip. In fact, he has yet to get out of eye sight on any other trip we have taken.
Afterwards he told me that he was scared I wouldn’t find him. I replied, “Honey, I will never stop looking until I find you. That you can be sure.”
We are all prone to wonder. My son thought he knew what was best. For whatever reason, he wondered. He got lost. But once he realized he was lost, he called out for me, and looked for help from a safe adult.
I’ve been the lost sheep before. But I have never been in the position of the shepherd who would never give up until he found that sheep. I’ve been the prodigal son before. But I have never had the privilege of welcoming back a lost child in my arms. The relief, the gratefulness, the love… overwhelming amazing feelings. (Not that I ever want to do that again!) Knowing the incredible love that I have for my child make me understand on a different level the love that God, our Father, must have for us.
My son being lost for just a few minutes gave me a deeper appreciation for the gift that he is. The thought that I would never find him again never crossed my mind. All I thought was, where are you? I am coming for you. And once I had my son in my arms, I was not the least bit mad or upset that he wondered. I was just grateful that he was safe and back.
This is just a glimpse of the love God must have for us. If I, being a sinful human, love my child like this, how much more must He love each and every one of us.
We are prone to wonder. We think we know what’s best. We get lost. Praise God that all we have to do is call out to Him, and He is there. He welcomes us back with open arms. No yelling. No condemning. Just love. Grateful that you are His.
Then Jesus told them this parable: “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? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’
Luke 15: 2-6