“I’m looking for my daughter.
Have you seen her?
If she shows up, can you give her this number?
Can you tell her we miss her?
We don’t know what to do or how to find her.
If you see her, please tell her we just want her home.”
I have at least one conversation like that a month. It doesn’t ever get easier to tell people that I can’t help them, that I don’t know where their daughter or sister or wife is.
And I have yet to see the end results of any of these calls. The women they’re looking for don’t usually show up, so I wonder for awhile where they are, and then I stop thinking about them. Until the next phone call. Then I am flooded with the memories of all the past conversations I’ve had with desperate people anxiously searching.
My heart aches for these people. I have no idea what it’s like to have someone that I love just disappear. Thinking about it evokes a kind of grief that is open-ended. There isn’t a date or a time that these families can hold onto in anticipation. It’s simply living day by day with the slowly dimming hope that they will once again be reunited.
I can’t help but wonder what the ones who are lost feel like. Do they know they are being looked for? Do they care? What must have made them leave in the first place? It’s hard for me to understand what makes someone just walk away from the ones who love them and care about them.
But…I’m realizing more each day that I have been that person, and at any moment I could become that person again. Time and time again I have turned my back on the One who loves me because I’ve fallen for the lie that there is something better. The little voice in my head–the one that says I can do it on my own–is very persuasive.
And even though I’ve been there, done that, I don’t ever seem to learn. I can’t seem to remember that Jesus will take me back no matter what. I let my pride get in the way, and so I wander aimlessly for far too long before I allow myself to finally slink back to the only consistently safe place I know.
In Luke 15, Jesus tells the story of his relationship with us, but he makes it subtle and calls it The Parable of the Lost Son. It’s a fairly well known bit of Scripture, but I’ll break it down nonetheless. This guy (that’s Jesus) has two sons. One of them (you guessed it, this is us) cashes in his inheritance early, leaves his family behind, and proceeds to squander his newly acquired wealth. He ends up living with pigs, eating what they eat, and basically hating his life. After what probably feels like forever, he realizes he’s made a terrible decision and he returns home to his dad.
When his dad sees him coming, he rejects him, tells him to go back to the field where he came from, and…nope, that’s not what happens at all, but I bet I confused you for a second.
Rather, the father is filled with compassion for his long lost son, and he runs out to meet him. He greets him with open arms and throws a huge celebration in his honor.
I have read that story so many times that I have cheapened its meaning. When I stop and think about it, though, I am overwhelmed by the implications. Jesus is telling us that no one is beyond redemption.
There is nothing we can do or say that will keep him from loving us, from running after us with reckless abandon. Regardless of how many times we run away, he still searches. He wants his kids home, and he’ll do anything to bring us back.