Standing in the grocery line, a cart full of food, she feels a chill. Patting her pocket, then pockets, she realizes, she doesn’t have her wallet. With a silent expletive she steps out of line. Deep breath, just breathe. Exhale. Her mind frantically rehearses, where was it last? She always keeps it in her pocket. Did it fall out? Did somebody take it? She apologizes to the store manager, she’ll be back to pay for everything. And the search begins. Back to the car looking all around, inside and out, she gets in. She starts thinking about what it will mean if it is truly lost, credit cards, social security card, driver’s license, her identity out there for anyone to steal. And then. Then, she reaches down into the space between the seat and the door and there, yes, there it is. As she grabs hold if it, she sighs deeply. Her body relaxes and smiles. It’s okay. She is okay. She found it.
There was a news report earlier this year. Casey Hathaway, age three, didn’t come in when the other children did. Forest-land borders his grandmother’s yard and somehow, he got lost in the back woods. For 3 days that included below freezing nights and a total of 2” of rain during the day, teams of rescuers formed long lines to search vast acres of forest calling out Casey’s name. If you have ever been part of a search team or have ever not known where your child had wandered off to, or if your aged parent decided once again to take another walk about; then you know what it is to be beside yourself with worry. When Casey was found 3 days later, celebration was mixed with astonishment when searchers asked how he survived. His answer, “Well, for two days I just stayed with the bear!”
Jesus tells stories like these in Luke 15, lost sheep, lost coin, lost sons. Each parable gives us a new glimpse of how treasured we are by God. We get to feel with God the dismay of loss and the joy of finding what was lost. Each story ends with great communal celebration as what was lost is now found.
So, we enter this year’s Lenten journey with a new invitation to let go of whatever greener grass, or shiny objects or intoxicating affirmations draw us away from God; to be done with whatever feared scarcity hinders us from sharing God’s gifts, to turn away from whatever circumstances keep us running away from or resenting the people in our lives. Lent’s journey is always demanding. Prying open our own hands so that we can share what we have known of God’s love and justice takes effort. Yet that effort, seen from the perspective of God’s delight and heaven’s rejoicing, seems wholly worth the struggle.