Losing things is a nuisance that seems forever mine. It’s the minor things I lose, things I seem to have given myself permission to be less attentive to keeping found. I am notorious for misplacing my car keys most of all, and my sunglasses are almost always missing. Most days I haphazardly place them somewhere near the first thing that was on my mind as I took them off or turned off the engine—which means that sometimes I find them in the laundry room and other times by the refrigerator.
Habitually missing keys are certainly a frustration, but finding them is usually as simple as retracing my steps—and there is always a spare set if they don’t turn up right away. To my husband, however, lost keys are a source of unnecessary frustration. He has worked patiently on the problem; we have a special place to put the keys when we walk through the door. Some days this works.
Other days I more resemble the woman in Jesus’s parable tearing apart the house to find the lost coin, lighting a lamp, sweeping the house, searching carefully until she finds it. And perhaps this contributes to my attitude with regard to lost keys—I know I will eventually find them. In fact, the only time I seem lose them is when I am comfortably in the confines of my own house. Sadly, sunglasses are another case entirely.
In two different parables, Jesus compares the sentiments that accompany the person who has lost something to the sentiments of the heavens over the one who is lost. When the woman in the parable has found the coin she was searching for, she calls her friends and neighbors together and asks them to celebrate with her: “I have found my lost coin!”
Jesus then concludes: “In the same way, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over even one sinner who repents.”(1)
My lost keys or pens or coins don’t typically evoke in me such sentiments. And I wonder how easy it is to carry a similar lightness about a world buried in injustice, lost in pain, distraction, or indulgence. How easy is it to give ourselves permission to be inattentive to so much around us, to see a world of need as something minor, to view our own wandering as a problem that will work itself out like lost keys? No doubt the heavens grieve over this sort of inattention even as they grieve over the lost daughter or missing son.
I was reacquainted recently with the pain of longing after something lost. Unlike my misplaced keys, I was neither confident that it would turn up nor was the thought of a “spare” comforting in the least. Sentimentally, it was irreplaceable and I grieved its loss. I found myself recounting all of the memories associated with it. My mind was haunted by where it might be, whose hands it might be in, whether I would ever see it again. And when I found it, like the woman in Jesus’s parable, I celebrated with anyone who would celebrate with me.
When we lose something dear to us and find ourselves hoping against hope for its return, we are given the slightest hint of the Father’s longing to gather us unto himself and his grief when we will not have it. When Jesus spoke of lost sheep, he gave us a glimpse of the inescapably personal nature of God’s love for each face we pass on the way to work, each child we overlook, each person to whom we have given ourselves permission to be inattentive. “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’”(2)
Unto the shepherd who pursues lives and searches hearts, whose arm is not too short to save, the psalmist confessed, “I have strayed like a lost sheep.” Undoubtedly the heavens rejoice over the heart that recognizes its need to be found. Whether we have strayed from the care of God or strayed in our attention to a world in need of being found, he who came for the lost calls us back into the careful arms of the shepherd who won’t quit searching.
Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.
(1) Luke 15:8-10.
(2) Luke 15:3-6.