I have little doubt it has happened to all of us. We are so sure we have put something in a specific place, only to discover it’s not there. We may have tucked a receipt in our wallet so we could easily retrieve it for a return at the store next week or maybe been confident we had another ten-dollar bill in our wallet when we were about to tip our hair stylist. We might take every single thing out of a purse or wallet because we are so certain and still come up empty.
I wish I could have found an earring or two over time. On more than one occasion I have come missing one of the good earrings my sweet husband has given me. There was a beautiful gold hoop on a wintry day in a parking lot on my way to a workshop. I was sure it would fall out of the scarf or collar of my coat but no such luck. There was a rest area on a trip to Vermont where another special earring went missing. Sadly, jewelry stores don’t sell single earrings but maybe they should.
But it isn’t just jewelry we somehow lose, no matter our age we tend to misplace a pen, a note, that bottle of spices we thought we had an extra one of and more. Most of the time I think it happens when we are not focused on only one thing and put something or drop something or have something fall from some part of us without initially noticing. I recall a time or two when my mother was still alive that my daughter or I would tell her we had lost something, and she would quickly say she would pray God would show us where we had left it. Sometimes He did! But that has not always been the case. More often if I have rediscovered something that was lost, I just happen upon it when I am doing something else. I just wish I would have had that happen when those special earrings disappeared.
Isn’t it fascinating how upset we can become when we lose even something small of little value? I think it points to how attached we can be to temporal things without even realizing it.
My most memorable story of losing something valuable and having God help me go to the exact spot where it was happened on one of several vacation trips to the beautiful mountains of Alberta, Canada. My digital SLR camera was a constant companion on vacation trips to try to capture some small bit of the beauty of God’s creation all around us. (When our children still lived at home and took trips with us, I would get teased about how often I was off the trail trying to get a great shot of some wildflowers.) But on this day, we had been hiking for much of the afternoon and stopped at one point before going on down the path. It was later in the afternoon, and we decided we needed to return to our hotel, and it wasn’t until we got to the hotel parking lot that I noticed my camera was not with me. We had been so many places; how could we ever hope to find it?
Clearly, the odds were not good that we could find it, but I was desperate. I asked God to guide us and asked my husband to return to the last place we had parked our car more than a few minutes from the hotel. He drove along with my anguish palpable at the likely loss of the camera as well as the many photos it contained of this memorable trip. All these years later I recall coming into that parking area at the trailhead and getting out of the car and starting in a direction where I thought I had stopped. The sun was dipping in the late afternoon sky and not much light would be left to search if this was the wrong place but as I slowly walked along keeping a sharp eye out, low and behold I discovered it laying in the tall grass not far from where we had briefly stopped. I cannot express how surprised and grateful I was and how much I thanked God for surely being the One who helped me locate it since it was so improbable.
I wonder what story you would tell about losing (and perhaps finding) something valuable to you.
Losing something that seems precious (though temporal) always reminds me if the big velvet hanging behind the altar at the small country church where I grew up. In it, Jesus is holding a lamb in his arms and is depicted with such gentle care for it. As a child I was drawn to that picture without a great deal of understanding of the parable or story it represented, but how precious it is and how often I think of it when I read the passages in the Bible that tell the story of how Jesus goes out to find what’s been lost – something far more valuable than an earring, an extra bottle of spices, or even a good digital SLR camera full of memories.
Some of you know the story I am speaking of about the one sheep that gets lost from the others in the pasture. The sheep or lambs represent us. How often we can be tempted or do go off on our own only to get lost on a path to nowhere. This story gives us hope despite our distracted wandering.
“Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’ Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.”Luke 15:3-6 (MSG)
It brings to mind the tender lyrics of a worship song by Stuart Townend (How Deep the Father’s Love for Us):
“How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory
Behold the man upon a cross
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished
I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom”