One day a man’s grandson, Richy, was playing hide-and-seek with another boy. He hid himself and waited for his friend to eventually find him. After twenty minutes, he peeked out of his secret hiding place and saw no one. After waiting five more minutes, Richy came out of his hiding place and went looking for his friend. That’s when Richy realized that his friend hadn’t been looking for him at all, and had left. Crying, he ran to his grandfather. Between his bouts of tears he said, “I’m hiding, but no one is looking for me.”
As adults we go through these same feelings at times. We ask ourselves if it matters that we’re even around, and if we would go missing in some fashion, would anyway care enough to look for us?
Long ago Jesus answered this question for us as he tells this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’”
Now I know we all like to think we are one of the good sheep, one of the 99 who faithfully followed the good shepherd, but the fact of the matter is, every single one of us: is, has been, and will again be, that lost sheep. There are times when we feel alone. We find ourselves in a foreboding darkness, not knowing where to turn. As we stand shivering in this frightening moment, we hear off in the distance the cry of the shepherd. In his voice, you can hear that he is afraid too, he has lost one of his precious one’s.
You let out a cry and though you can’t see the good shepherd. you can hear he is running towards you through the bramble which undoubtedly is cutting up his legs, but he doesn’t slow down. When he gets to you, it is his turn to let out a cry; a cry of delight. He rushes to you, throws his arms around you, hugs you and lavishes kisses upon you. He is so happy to find you! Knowing how tired you are and ignoring his own cuts and weariness, he picks you up and carries you on his shoulders. All the way back home, he is singing out praises to God. When you arrive home, he gently sets you down in the safety of the flock. You realize right then, how deeply you are loved, and how important the Shepherd thinks you are.
You were lost, but now you are found – someone was looking for; someone will always be looking for you – the good shepherds love for you, is that great.
Do you understand that?
One of the great Christians of this generation, and a man who was able to grasp the depth of God’s love for us in ways that few ever have, is Brennan Manning. In one of his books he shares an experience which helped him grow in his understanding of God’s love for him. He wrote: “One night I heard in my mind, God saying, “‘I want you to accept My Father’s love.” – I answered, “But I know that. It’s old hat,”
God answered, “That’s just what you don’t know. You have no idea of how much I love you. Do you know that every time you tell Me you love Me, I say thank you? Do you understand the word of My Son: ‘Thy will be done,’ was said for you, despite how much it grieved his soul and pointed him to a cross to die – for you? ... Have you forgotten that on Good Friday no angel intervened, that sacrifice was carried out, and it was my Son who died and my heart that was broken?
“When your friends loses a dear one in death, do you know that I go to the funeral home and grieve with them and try to comfort them? Do you know that as your Father, that is how I feel towards you?
“And, are you aware that I Had to raise Jesus from the dead on Easter morning because My love is everlasting? That I could not bear the thought of eternity without the presence of My Son Jesus and are you serenely confident that I will raise you, too, My adopted Son?
“But of course you are aware of all these things. You have told me as much, telling Me that that is all old hat, that you know that I love you? – But do you really know?
After that night Brennan Manning wrote: “When the Father’s love is taken for granted, we paint Him into a corner and rob Him of the opportunity to love us in new and surprising ways.”
We have been raised to know that God loves us, but people, do you REALLY know how deeply you are loved by our Lord? Take the time to re-read the parable of the Lost Sheep today, then re-read Manning’s experience until it becomes your conversation with God. Once you get both of these episode’s in your heart, I guarantee you will have a much deeper sense of your importance, and the depth of God’s love for you.
~ Pastor Dan