Faith, life, Parenting, relationships, Spiritual Encouragement, Stories from Scripture, Uncategorized
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Looking for Lost Things {31 verses in October}

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” {Luke 15:20}

The first time I saw my husband’s “search tactics” in action happened one night before we were married. 

We’d watched a movie in his college house and somehow, the promise ring he’d given me slipped off my finger. I was in a panic and apologizing all over the place, he was mobilizing his systematic approach to finding the lost item.

In the twenty-one years since, I’ve seen him search and recover nearly every lost item, from jewelry to keys to cell phones to pet snakes.

Elements of  his approach include repeatedly looking in the same places, dumping out bags, baskets and boxes, and always he uses a flashlight.

One time I’d lost my wedding ring. I had looked in my jewelry box a half dozen times, and Angelo goes in with his torch in hand, dumps out the box and viola! finds my ring – right where I’d been looking.

Sometimes his methods frustrate me. Sometimes I’m ready to call it quits and write off the loss. Not him. No stone unturned is his motto.

When I read the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son in Luke 15, I always see my husband entering the search with his trademark diligence. Each of these lost “items” represents something deeper to the original listener of the stories.

•  A lamb could be purchased for less than a drachma. From my research that amounted to about a half day of wages. Most flock owners had about 100 sheep and a lamb was important, but not irreplaceable. In other words, if a lamb was attacked or disappeared, the loss was mitigable and could be recovered from easily.

•  In the story of the woman who’d lost her coin, a more personal asset was at stake. Palestinian women were given a necklace with ten coins on the occasion of her wedding. This necklace has been likened to a wedding ring, however there is a greater value here, I think. She could not own property, in fact, most women were considered property in this place and time. So, her coins were her security in the case that she found herself in need or cast out from the care of the household into which she had married. This coin was one of many, but to her, very important.

•  In the final parable of the trio, we see something of even greater value: a son. Here, the lost thing chooses to wander and squander and then, ultimately to ponder his actions. We see a more complex story unfolding that involves the actions and motives of the people involved. Not inanimate coins or thoughtless sheep, but persons involved and intertwined and affected by each other’s actions and responses.

Losing people is messy business. Wouldn’t it be easy if we could track down the lost and bring them helplessly back to the fold? Or, wouldn’t it be nice if we could bring out the broom and the flashlight, shine it on the lost soul and declare: There you are!

God could have made it like that, I suppose.

But in the story of the lost son, he delineates two aspects that are vital to recovering a lost soul: repentance (acknowledgement of our sin and depravity) and compassion (the spiritual response of the Father). These two ingredients set apart the problem of lost souls over objects or property. Our repentance and God’s compassion (which motivates him to forgive) are essential truths to the relationship we have with God. If it were religion (law) we could merely keep our accounts clean by works or sacrifice. We could possibly attain good standing by working.

But the son here doesn’t pull himself up by his bootstraps and work his way out of the pig-slop. He recognizes that he’s lost – completely lost – and returns himself to the foot of his father and hopes for mercy.

We cannot find ourselves or earn our way into good favor with God. We can only turn and face his compassion that waits for us with open arms.

And here, the Father demonstrates his love for his son was never based on his service or his “being a good boy”. He waited, but actively. He scanned the horizon and when he saw the familiar gait of his child, though perhaps a more downtrodden version, his compassion came unbound and he ran to meet him. The forgiveness was at the ready even before the son formed the words of his confession. And the celebration, probably something the Father had long planned and hoped for, became that day a reality.

Dear ones, that compassion is never ending. The forgiveness is free. Sure, getting lost is messy business. But there is nothing we can do, no failure so great, that we cannot be accepted into God’s loving arms.

He’s always looking for ways to find us and bring us into his arms and cover us with kisses.

 

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