It made headlines in our local newspapers, front-page and bold print: Two Children Lost on Roan Mountain. It was one of those things parents have nightmares about. A family of four were taking a hike along one of the trails, their four and six year old run up ahead – laughing, chasing after bugs or dancing leaves. The children rounded a bend with their parents comfortably chatting behind them and then…they were gone.
Terrified, the parents quickly alerted the authorities, knowing that within hours dusk would come along with near-freezing temps. Within two hours, the mountain was shrouded with hundreds of people, looking for these children. Trackers, dogs, police, volunteers searched through the dense forest overnight looking for these children. I can’t even imagine the sleepless and petrified night the parents experienced.
The next afternoon, the children were discovered…safe, hungry, and scared…but found. Can you imagine the relief those parents felt? The utter joy? The thrill of familiar hugs and words like “mommy” and “daddy’. The knot I’d been holding in the pit of my stomach unwound with relief. Praise God.
You know, we’re like those kids. As naive, helpless, and lost as a four and six year old can be in a confusing forest, we stumble through our earthly tangles of life. Scarred by thorns of anger or hurt, bruised by falls into selfishness and discontentment, confused by the darkness of our sin, we stumble about trying to find our way….but, just like those two little kids, we can’t get to our Father on our own. We can’t see the path for the dark. We need Him to find us…and that’s exactly what He does.
What kind of love is this? A Father for his child, except 100 times bigger than anything else we could ever experience on this earth.
In Luke 15, Jesus tells three stories about ‘lost’ things: a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son. Each ‘lost’ item held infinite value to its’ owner, and the owner was not content until the lost item had been recovered. Jesus explicitly says that “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.” (The Message paraphrase)
God doesn’t just leave us out in the forest to fend for ourselves, blindly searching for answers and healing. He comes to find us. The most beautiful example is Jesus. God didn’t wait for us to call to him…or until we were smart enough or brave enough to go in search of him, Romans says, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.” God didn’t wait for us to get ‘good enough’, because that would never happen – he took the initiative to find us. He didn’t send hundreds of police officers and volunteers. He did even better than that. He sent his Only Son, who would live a perfect life and die a fearsome death to open the pathway to Heaven for God’s lost kids. He loves us. He finds us. He saves us. Praise his name.