Luke 15: 1,7 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.. . .Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
Natalie was missing for 45 minutes. A late afternoon trip to the zoo turned into a nightmare, as one instant she was beside me, and the next she was not. I wish I could claim that my faith held me together, but God was not the first thing I ran to. Fear was my companion for the search. I realized in an instant that I have come to expect loss—that is a story for me to figure out another day.
Daniel and I hunted for five minutes, but to no avail, so we flagged security who confidently assured me that they would find her. The young man who stayed with me had barely shaken the dust of his teens, he was way out of his depth with me. He had enough sense to realize that I needed to search rather than stand there and wait.
“Ouch, you’re holding my hand too tight,” Daniel complained. “Is that because your scared for Natalie?”
“Sorry kiddo,” I said, realizing that I needed to find a safe place for him while we searched. I dropped him off with the original staff member we had flagged and the teen-adult and I relayed Natalie’s description around the park. At first there was constant chatter as the net of people spread out to different locations.
Then the drought of silence.
My thoughts threatened to send me over the edge so I began jabbering to the teen-adult. We searched in all of Natalie’s favorite places until I could tell the teen-adult’s confidence waning, and he was running out of ways to keep me hopeful.
“When is it time to call the police.” I asked.
“It is getting close.” he answered honestly.
My husband arrived from work and called to join the search. The staff was starting to look through the parking lot.
Finally my cellphone vibrated again. “I’ve found her.”
She was happily playing, oblivious of our fear, oblivious that she had been missing for 45 minutes.
My husband told me later that staff walked right past her.
How is that possible?
Sometimes we don’t look lost. Natalie was happily playing and there were lots of parents on the plaza.
Jesus told the parable of the lost sheep because the Pharisees were complaining that he was hanging out with sinners. He should be more concerned about those who are staying with the flock. Right? I’ve got news for you Pharisees, not a single one of us is without sin and need of repentance. We don’t know we are in danger, we are going through life believing that we can do it all. We don’t need anyone’s help. It takes a shepherd who knows that we are prone to walk off cliffs or into a lions den. Jesus doesn’t just search, he celebrates when we are found!
There are over 7 billion people on this planet; what’s one little lamb when you have a whole herd of sheep? Who would climb cliffs, face lions, keep searching for just one of us? Only one God will do that!
Independent little Natalie didn’t know that she was lost yesterday. I’m grateful that we have a shepherd who will keep searching for us, even when we are wander away from his love and protection.