One day when I was in second grade, my mom told me she had an appointment and that I needed to go to a family friend’s house immediately after school.
I did not follow directions.
Halfway to another friend’s house after school, I remembered I was supposed to go elsewhere, but just decided not to.
That was the day I was the object of a city-wide search. I had no idea that the search was going on, and no idea I was being looked for.
Perhaps 4 hours after school ended, there was a knock at the door of my friend’s house. The person showed a picture to all of us boys huddled at the door and asked, “Have any of you seen this boy?” Surprised to see a photo of myself, I said, “That’s me!”
I walked the few blocks back to my house with this person (this was back in the day before you were taught not to go anywhere with a stranger) and was surprised that there were several police cars in front of our house.
Upon seeing me, my mom burst into tears. I had been found. I still didn’t realize the extent of effort that had been made to find me. At the time, it seemed cool to me to get to wear a policeman’s hat and sit in the squad car, and it was strange that all this effort had been made just to find me, when I didn’t even realize I was lost. But my mom’s reaction – a mix of relief, joy, and anger – reminds me even now of the value of finding something you value.
You see, I didn’t feel lost, and didn’t even think I was lost. But I was lost by definition because I was being searched for. So, at that moment, it didn’t matter what I felt or thought. I was the object of a city-wide search by scores of people.
In the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 15 there are three lost-and-found stories: the lost sheep, the lost coin and the Prodigal Son. In each of those stories, the focus is on the one doing the searching. The main point of these stories is that God is a searching God who makes every effort to find what is lost.
We learn about the character of God passionately valuing what is lost so vividly in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, when the father in the story runs undignified down the road to hug his lost boy even though the son squandered all his money on morally bankrupt choices. How could God love us so much that He would react that way? In that day, when Jesus spoke these stories, people could not conceive of God being that crazy in love with us that He would be a searching God.
The day I was found, there was great rejoicing. That makes sense. Being found is worth the rejoicing not because the “lost one” feels found, but because the searcher recovers what they were desperately searching for.
But what about the “lost” object? Where is their voice in the story? We never hear the reaction of the sheep being rescued (I’m sure the sheep said, “Baaa!”). We never find out what the son thinks when dad cries at his return and throws a huge party. My mom never asked me if I felt lost, or what it was like to feel found.
Consider some lyrics that we have all heard countless times:
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now I’m found,
Was blind, but now, I see.
The author writes from the perspective of knowing they were lost … and then, knowing he was found. And that is precisely how he could express just how amazing this grace truly was. But not every lost object knows they are lost. I didn’t. But I could tell from my mom’s reaction how deeply valued I was. I am deeply loved … by my mom, my dad, my family, friends, people I work with, and most significantly, by my Father God. Even though I didn’t feel lost, in the aftermath I could know I was worth searching for, I was THAT valuable.
To this day, it is humbling to know that dozens of people gave their time and effort to find me when I was lost. But it is infinitely more humbling to know that God the Father searched me out to find me even though I didn’t know I needed to be found. How powerfully it speaks of the Father’s love for me and how much He values me that He pursued me. We all need to know we are THAT deeply loved and THAT valuable.
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