The Terror of Being Lost

Lost is such a lonely word. I was 5 years old. Mother and I were in the Danner’s Dime Store on Indiana Avenue in Fountain Square, Indianapolis. She was lost. I was in the toy section having a ball. My demands were few: just one each of the playthings on display that would make one little boy the envy of the neighborhood. 

Suddenly I heard a very loud, but familiar voice. “Stevie!” Poor mother. She must have been frightened, being lost and all. Fortunately I was able to rush to her side and soothe her troubled heart.

A Little Lamb
When my Lord taught–boy did he teach. Parables. Lots of parables. Earthly stories with heavenly meanings. And I love them all. I especially relish three of them, juxtaposed by Luke for some divine reason. There is the account of the lost sheep. As much as we love all our children or all our friends or all our relatives, when one is in trouble, we will eagerly focus whatever energies and attentions are required to come to their aid. The shepherd leaves the flock in order to rescue the one errant lamb. Why? Because he loves them all.

It is difficult to escape the meaning of the parable of the Lost Sheep. We are told in Scripture that it is better to have never known the way of the Lord than to know it and turn awa from it. As comfortable and safe as it may be in a sheltered and loving environment, Satan continually tempts us to look for a way to test our independence. Life becomes boring; tedious even. So we go to places we never should seek. We look for occasions we do not need. We long for variety because we think it will be superior to what we now enjoy. We spend money we don’t have to buy things we don’t need to impress people we often don’t like very much. We are lost. Families know if this. Businesses know of this. Churches know of this. It involves “the other side of the fence” syndrome. But when we get to the other side we often discover that what we thought was lovely greener grass is mere weeds.

A Little Coin
Money is merely a tool to be used for noble purposes. In the proper steward’s hands it is a blessing to many. The love of money, of course, is the root not just of evil, but all kinds of evil. Few souls have so much of it that they can afford to lose some. One such soul had ten silver coins (drachmas). Suddenly one is “found” missing. Where could it be? How could she have been so careless? How difficult is it to keep a mere ten coins in the bag? Lost! Nine coins will not be enough. All ten will be required to meet the needs of the month. Look under the bed. Carefully sweep the rooms and sift through the debris. Where could it have gone? Check the mantel once again. “Ah, there it is!” Hidden in the recess of the wood. Rejoice!

A Little Man
Children seem to exalt a home more than any other blessing. Just as I adore my two sons, Matthew and Mark, the Jewish father Luke speaks of surely loved his as much. One of his sons, in perhaps a fit of me-ism, selfishly asked for his inheritance prematurely. “I want what is mine, and I want it now.” So the father, filled will great love as well as sadness, gave the lad his part of the estate. Most of us can recite the rest of the story.

The young man squanders his birthright by indulging in every selfish desire that crossed his mind. A sudden famine found the rebellious soul in dire straits. Where would he find food? Within days he found himself feeding swine. His hunger became so great that he would have eaten the very slop the hogs were swilling. Sometimes one must hit rock bottom and be flat on his back before he will look upward. Coming to his senses, he realized that even as a hired hand back home, he would be far better off than he was with the smell of pig urine on himself.

Would he be welcomed? Was it presumptuous to think that the very father he betrayed would even wish to see him?

Perhaps knowing how fathers are, the pathetic beggar-man finds himself trekking homeward. But before he reaches home, he sees afar off his old house and the warmth of inviting lights within. But that is not all he sees. There is a figure standing outside. Who is it? Could it be? Yes! It’s father. He is standing outside the home, looking to the horizon as he has been every day since his son left. And when he sees the image of his son afar off he begins to walk toward him. Then he runs in an awkward gait until he and his missing son reach out to each other with tears and joy. The prodigal has returned. “Hurry! Bring my best robe. Get the ring and sandals. Kill the plump heifer. It’s time to celebrate!”

Three Parables – One Meaning
What do these three Lucan stories have in common? The lamb, the coin, and the son all represent things precious to us. Food. Stewardship. Life. There are few things we need in this physical life. Most of our “necessities” have been manufactured within the last hundred years or so. But when push comes to shove, when a giant tsunami levels the playing field to each wondering where his next bowl of rich will be found, most necessities are not necessities at all.

Give me food. Give me a way to make a living. Give me health. These are most important. Food, clothing, a job, friends. How little is required for people to find contentment if they will.

Yet the sheep was lost, as were the coin and the son. And when we lose what is most dear to us at the moment, what do we do? What must we do? We seek. We search. We traverse hill and dale, from Dan to Beer Sheba if we must, to find what is precious to us. Our God can do no less with us. For, you see, the lamb, the coin, the son all represent me. You. God will search heaven and earth to find that which he loves most. “Jesus loves me; this I know. For the Bible tells me so.”

A Yesterday Parable
His name was Cletus. He grew up in the church. Adored Sunday School. Clet learned to quote most of the New Testament before he was sixteen. His father was an elder in the church. Many thought the lad would become a preacher. The summer before he was to go away to Christian College, he impregnated a girl. Urged to marry, Clet got a job and “made an honest woman out of her.” Within two years he had deserted his wife and child and began a life of carefree living that shamed his family, the church, and the community. One evening while driving drunk, he wiped out a family of three, staggering from the carnage uninjured.

Two decades swiftly passed. Cletus showed up at the little red brick church house he had known so well as a lad. At the invitation, with tears flowing down his cheeks, he walked forward to be met by his forgiving father. Prayers were said. Emotions were not hidden. A potluck dinner after the assembly was a re-visitation of the banquet thrown for the wayward son in Luke 15. Yes, just like the prodigal’s older brother, a few thought Cletus had fallen so low that he would be an embarrassment to the church again. But most embraced him and welcomed him back. His father surely rejoiced. But another Father was even more delighted. Why? Because our Heavenly Father doesn’t care so much for livestock, money, and wayward kids as he does for struggling souls created in His Own image.

Lost & Found Redux
I found my mother that day in Danner’s Dime Store. She had tears in her eyes. I asked her why she was crying and told her that I would have found her sooner or later. She knelt and hugged me so tightly that I could hardly breathe. Though in my childish mind I didn’t know it at the time, “I once was lost, but now am found; was blind but now I see.”