My parents love to tell stories about me and to me from when I was just a toddler. One of my favorite stories they tell was when I was no more than a year old. I had just started walking and learned to love my newfound abilities. One weekend my parents and I went camping and as they were setting up our pop-up camper, my mom took her eyes off of me for all of ten seconds. When she turned back around, as the story goes, I was nowhere to be found. Naturally panic began to set in as the two-person manhunt was underway to find me. Thankfully, it did not take long as I was just on the other side of our van, giggling and smiling.
Of course, I have no recollection of this event and, having no kids of my own, I cannot place myself into my parent’s shoes as they frantically looked for me in those few seconds. However, I have witnessed other parents as they frantically looked for their children who have only briefly gone missing. Seeing the fear in their eyes as they can only imagine the worst has happened sends shivers down my spine and strikes me at my core.
Throughout the month of April, we will be reading stories about things being lost and found. Our Bible memory verse is from the parable of the prodigal son where the father rejoices because his son was lost, but has been found. However, more importantly we will be focusing on the theme of confession and forgiveness.
When I think about the parable of the prodigal son I always focus on the father in the story. The father allowed his son to go and get lost in order that he may be found again. The Gospel text mentions nothing about the father’s emotion during that time, but I can only imagine that it is one of sorrow and maybe even fear. I can only imagine that the father wants nothing more than to protect his son from the worst. Yet, the father allows the son to leave.
The father in this story is representative of God. We stray from God and we become lost, but we are also welcomed back into the fold with open arms when are found again. The Bible gives us an understanding of God as a parental figure in our lives. So, I can also imagine God feeling scared and sad as we get lost and stray from the love of God. Yet, every time we confess how sorry we are for running away from God, we are always welcomed back with a smile and a sigh of relief.
I think this is such an important lesson for us and for our kids. I think it is important for our kids to get a little lost. By being lost and going on adventures, we learn what is most important to us; we learn who and whose we are. It should go without saying that I believe keeping our children safe is a number one priority. But, having the freedom to get lost for a little while and to realize what is most important is important. I also believe that allowing space for kids to confess their ‘lost-ness’ and to be welcomed back with open arms is also important.
God loves us so much that God was willing to send Jesus into the world to be crucified on a cross by those whom Jesus was dying for. We were so lost that God was willing to sacrifice God’s self in order to get us back. This, indeed, is the true love of a parent.
I can only imagine that when my parents found me on the other side of the van, they picked me up into their arms and were relieved. I’m sure if I were older there would have been a discussion about why I should not have done what I did and I would have needed to apologize for scaring them. The same goes for our kids and the same goes for us with God. How wonderful a model we have in God to show us how to be good to each other that even when our kids or family or friends or anyone else close to us strays from us and gets lost, we can rejoice when they return “because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.”