Decades ago, a large group of our family — aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews and of course my own kids — were on the Ocean City boardwalk. We had ridden the rides and were heading to Grotto’s Pizza for dinner. The boardwalk was wall-to-wall people, congested and packed with vacationers by the time we got to the restaurant. We were seated at several tables, and somewhere in the course of conversation, someone took a head count and found we were missing two children. One was mine! My heart sank into my stomach.
First, we searched the bathrooms, then the restaurant, then split up to search the boardwalk. I took south, my wife took north. Other adults checked the nearby shops and vendors. With cell phones still waiting to be invented, all we could do was run and hope for the best. Eventually, after what seemed like hours, my wife found them in a police trailer stationed several blocks north of the restaurant. Apparently, they kept following the crowd not seeing us turn into Grotto’s. Scared silly, but safe, I thanked God they knew to find a policeman and tell them they were lost!
But, as awful as they felt, it was nothing compared to my aching heart. I hate losing anything, but to lose your kid? Come on! What kind of father was I? It was like my soul was ripped away! A piece of me was missing. I felt the adrenaline rush that comes with fear and superhuman strength as I ran down the boardwalk looking for my daughter and niece. Safe in the police trailer sipping a cold soda, they were oblivious to my pain. But I never stopped looking … and I’d still be looking today if we hadn’t found them.
The Bible teaches that, spiritually, all of us are lost. All of us have drifted from God. Somehow, we’ve managed to walk down paths of our own choosing. Some people feel the pain of being lost. They try anything to medicate the hurt, emptiness and confusion. They search for meaning and purpose “looking for love in all the wrong places.” Some people meander through life, conscious that something in their life is not right, that something is missing, but unclear what it is and where to find the answer. Still others don’t even realize they’re lost. They think this life is all there is. So, day after day it’s the same old routine and rut.
If you’ve ever lost your child, even for just a moment, you have a glimpse into God’s heart. As our Heavenly Father, God’s heart breaks over our situation. Being lost isn’t His plan for you and me. But being found is. Just like an earthly parent, God pursues us and He won’t give up until each one of us is found safe in His arms. Jesus announced that His mission given to Him by His Father, and our Father, was very focused and clear: “I came to seek and save those who are lost!” (Luke 10:19 NLT)
John Newton, in his song, “Amazing Grace”, wrote, “I once was lost but now am found.” Those words embody the experience and story of every follower of Jesus Christ.
Do you feel lost? In these desperate and trying days, know that you’re not alone. This pandemic has turned everybody’s world upside down. Now’s the time to reach out to God and admit you’re lost. Ask God to forgive you and receive Jesus into your heart and life. And I promise that your Heavenly Father will find you and bring you home.
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The Rev. William Thomas is pastor at Hereford United Methodist Church. He can be reached at email@example.com.