(The Parable of the Lost Sheep)
When my daughter was a toddler, I lost her. We were at a community event and as I paused to watch a performance, she toddled off. I swear I didn’t take my eyes off of her for more than a few seconds. When I went to pick her up, she was gone.
I looked all around me, turning in circles, sure that she was there somewhere, but she wasn’t. I looked at the people standing nearby, but she wasn’t with any of them. I called her name. Then I called it again … and again.
I became frantic.
Do you know this feeling? Has this ever happened to you?
As I rushed around, my mind was a few steps ahead of me. I imagined what I would say to the police. “She’s only a baby! Blonde hair, blue-green eyes, pink cheeks. She’s PERFECT. She’s my Russian princess, my gift from God. Find her PLEASE.”
Then I imagined what I would say to my husband.
The adrenaline was pumping and my life flashed before my eyes, except this time I wasn’t seeing a review of my life, I was terrorized by a preview of my life. I saw what my life would be like without my precious daughter.
I knew in an instant that I would never forgive myself and that I could never ask Stephen to forgive me.
I had one job—keep the kids safe—and I blew it.
I have no way of knowing how long I searched. Time had no meaning in those moments. Before long (but after what felt like way too long!), I saw my daughter in the arms of a grandmotherly type. The woman could see the fear coursing through my body. She handed my daughter to me immediately and calmly explained that when she saw my little one walking by herself, she picked her up and stood in place, knowing someone would come looking for her. She comforted my precious girl and kept her safe.
Relief doesn’t begin to express how I felt once my daughter was back in my arms.
I was not only relieved, I rejoiced!
In Luke, Jesus tells a parable about a shepherd who leaves 99 sheep to go and look for one who is lost (Luke 15:1-7). When the lost sheep is found, the shepherd is so happy he rejoices. In fact, he calls his friends and neighbors to come over for a party to celebrate, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.”
I know that feeling. That was just how I felt when I found my daughter.
Jesus tells that story to communicate that God is actively looking for us when we are lost. And make no mistake, we are all lost. We may look like we have it all together, but each of us is wandering away somehow.
The thing is, when I lost track of my daughter that day, I didn’t look for her because she kept her room clean, or picked up her toys, or followed my rules. I didn’t look for her because I knew some day she’d grow up to be the kind of kid who takes school seriously, is polite to people at church, and never fusses when I ask her to empty the dishwasher.
It’s impossible to imagine not looking for her. Can you imagine a parent deciding not to look for a lost child because the child misbehaved? No good parent would ever do such a thing.
I looked for my daughter because I loved her. I looked for my daughter because I knew and cared about who she was.
I looked for my daughter because she was mine and I wanted her back.
I think it’s the same with God and us.
God, the good shepherd (Psalm 23), leaves the 99 to look for … you. Not because of what you have done or how well you follow the rules. There isn’t anything you could do to make God stop searching for you. God knows who you are and loves you.
God says you are mine and I want you back.
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