I lost something dear to me recently. Problem is, it was someone dear to me who lost the thing that is dear to me, so I had a little wrestle happening in my head between turning into a shrieking banshee mother and showing some grace a la Mother Theresa.
I kept my cool.
When I was a little tot my grandparents gave me a bracelet. It’s a pretty common style; gold chain and plate with my name engraved in looping letters. It has a locket too – my favourite part – with a blue enamel swallow. It’s old, the gold plating is peeling away now, but I still love it. I keep it in a ring box in my bedside table, and a certain little someone discovered it recently.
The last sighting was of said toddler clutching the bracelet in one hand, ring box in the other, with a look of elation on his face, a giggle in his throat.
“Put it back,” dad growled, and he wandered off.
Later, I found the ring box marooned on the floor, no bracelet in sight. We turned Sherlock and searched the house in vain. We interrogated the 20-month-old. We did everything short of hiring a metal detector.
One day, I was on the phone. The conversation must have turned dreary because I was looking at the Christmas tree thinking, “Those decorations sure look drab…” when I noticed, hanging off a branch at kiddy height, my bracelet. And I had a flashback to the day we put up the tree when Master Mischief was helping hang the “pretties” in its branches. Come to think of it, a branch of a Christmas tree is a lovely place to hang a pretty bracelet. Gotta love child logic!
Around the same time, I read one of Jesus’ parables: The Parable of the Lost Sheep. A parable is simply a short story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson.
“Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’ Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue” (Luke 15:4-7, The Message).
I did a little dance when I found my bracelet. But all the inhabitants of heaven throw a party when someone down here is found, when they turn their eyes to God. When I think of the twinge of grief I experienced when I lost my childhood bracelet, I realise the heaviness of grief that God experiences until we are found. This was a topic close to Jesus’ heart – The Parable of the Lost Coin and The Prodigal Son also communicate the love of the Father and his yearning for a relationship with us.
But maybe you don’t feel like a lost sheep. Maybe you don’t feel you have sinned and need God in your life. Yet he will keep searching until you are safe in his flock.
Close your eyes. Picture your most precious possession and how you would feel if it were taken away. Multiply that by a thousand and you’re getting close to comprehending how much God yearns for you.
As printed in The Examiner Newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday February 4, 2013.