My lack of direction is legendary…
There was the time just after I started driving that I got really lost in a bad part of town. I couldn’t sort out where I was or where to go next. My heart was pounding hard as I realized how helpless I was to get myself to where I wanted to be or even back home. I finally happened upon an old BiLo. I ran into the store and nervously asked the manager if I could use the store phone to call my parents. Hearing my mom’s voice through the phone I began to cry. That tearful event launched my scared parents into the age of cell phones.
Then there was the time my friends and I were backpacking through Italy and Switzerland. We had been sightseeing all morning and our stomachs were growling as we anticipated the appetizing smell of the roast beef sandwiches we had just purchased in an age old market. We just needed to make it back to our rooms for a rest and lunch. I directed us, confidently, away from our hotel and into the wall of a locked church. No rest there, no place to eat, just more walking as my friends had to pick our way back.
If that doesn't explain the deficit of my natural talent, then there is the verifiable fact that I have lived in the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee my whole life and still occasionally...frequently... have a hard time finding places.
The advent of Google maps has been my best friend. Yet even with a GPS in my cell phone, the concept of being lost is part of my reality. However, it has taken on a fresh meaning as I have studied the parables of Jesus.
In Luke chapter 15 Jesus is about to tell three parables about things that are lost (The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, and the Prodigal Son), and He is telling these parables to a crowd made up of two different types of people. This paradoxical group is alike in that they are sinners, however the way they wear their sin looks different. There are:
- The tax gatherers and the sinners - These are the lost of the lost. They look bad. In regards to the religion of the day, they are far from God as it comes and they don’t care.
- The Pharisees and the scribes - These are the legalistic, proud, and work-oriented sinners of the day. They look good, but their hearts are lost in their own darkness.
Even though these people are sinning in different ways, Jesus tells them all the same simple truth: “you may be lost, but I will search for you.”
With parables Jesus takes the time to build an understanding that will open eyes to see that God is a passionate God that actively seeks that which is lost. And He makes His point not once, not twice, but three times. Each parable building in strength.
He begins with The Lost Sheep:
“What man among you if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, REJOICING.” Luke 15:4-5
I like that Jesus starts out with with a simple story about sheep. Shepherding was a common career in that day and time. It was a story that everyone would understand. A shepherd's diligent care would enable him to know when one of his sheep was lost. That lost sheep would spur him to action.
What a touching picture to see Jesus as a shepherd that cares for his sheep...but He is about to up the ante in making His point with his next parable. For the parable about the sheep is an example from career, work, and every day livelihood, but this next parable, The Lost Coin, is about a bride waiting to be married.
The Lost Coin:
“Or what women, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors saying, ‘REJOICE with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost.” Luke 15:8-9
See, in the day that Jesus lived in, a bride couldn’t be married until her dowry was in order. The coin that this lady lost, it was the last piece of her dowry that had to be sewn into her headdress before her groom could come for her. So when she lost it, it caused a strong reaction. And when she found it it created an even great response.
As strong as the passion of a bride for her wedding day, Jesus still has one more parable to help them understand. Jesus is about to bring His point to a crashing climax with the parable of the Prodigal Son.
(Ps: Side note - This is arguably the most famous parable in the Bible, and I never understood it until I studied it in context of Jesus’s words.)
The Prodigal Son:
“And he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him, and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him, and kissed him.”
It later adds,
“We had to be merry and REJOICE for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live and was lost and has been found.” Luke 15: 20 and 32
Here we see God not as a work day Shepherd, not as an excited bride waiting for her wedding day, but as a Father, earnestly looking, watching, and waiting for the first sign of return from his wayward son. This famous parable is set as the capstone of the three parables which all build to make the same point - That God is a passionate God who actively seeks that which is lost.
I’ve been lost so often that you would think I’d have gotten used to it by now. In fact I haven't. I don’t like that feeling of isolation and bewilderment. I don’t like being all alone when I feel vulnerable and unable to get back to a safe place. I don’t like that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, or knowing that it’s going to take an undetermined length of time and work to get back to where I am comfortable again.
While my sense of directions may never improve, God has taken this weakness of mine and given it a surprising strength I never expected. He has used my weakness and my aptitude for being physically lost to understand what it means to be spiritually lost.
He has let me see and understand Him better. It is His character to seek and find the lost. And He will pursue me and find me.
My God is a shepherd that knows when I have gone astray and will seek me, find me, and REJOICES when I am found.
My God is a lover that will light lamps, sweep, and “search carefully” until He finds me. And then He will REJOICE when He has found me.
My God is a Father that will look and wait, searching the horizon for me to return to Him. And when I begin that journey towards Him, He will feel compassion for me. He will run to me and embrace me; kiss me even. Then He will make merry and REJOICE.
Being lost isn’t so scary knowing that this is what God will do when I become lost. My security in life is established because I have a God that seeks me in every facet and REJOICES when He he bring me to safety.
I don’t have to try and orchestrate my own rescue when I am lost. God is there, searching...
Hallelujah and Amen!
Hannah Michael Wolfkill Snyder has always loved all of her names (yes, each one is on her passport!). However, the name she loves the most is Jesus. Jesus taught her how to play in the throne room of Heaven and sit in the lap of God the Father. This is her identity, where her heart loves to abide (even if her hands and feet are busy on earth running a household or meeting up with people). Because of her joy in the Father, her heart’s desire is to show women their God given identity in the kingdom of Heaven. You can find her on Instagram.