A terrible thing happened late last night. After I put the bins out, I discovered that my firstborn Stuart (aka the dog) had – very uncharacteristically – wandered off. Since this is something he never does and because he is 13 years old, I feared the worst. Either he had become disoriented at night and gone the wrong way, or he had had a heart attack and collapsed lost and alone somewhere out there in the dark.
I was beside myself. The thought of Stuart no longer with me was devastating. I got in the car and started to drive slowly around the neighborhood: tears streaming down my face; windows down; calling out his name.
On my third circle round, I spotted my beloved dog in the light from our porch casually trotting up the front path. I screeched to a halt, leaped from the car and promptly walloped his bottom hard before falling to my knees, hugging him tightly to me and covering him with kisses. “Stuart!” I cried. “Stuart! Stuart! How could you DO THAT to me? I was so worried!”
As I was falling into an emotionally exhausted sleep shortly afterwards, the thought struck me that this must be how Christ feels about every single one of us when we are lost. The story of the ninety-nine sheep who were safe but there was just one who was lost and Jesus left the ninety-nine to find the one. Yesterday evening, the fact that my two children and our two younger dogs were safe in the house did not mitigate one bit my panic at losing Stuart. Where was he? Was he all right? And there was no question in my mind that – no matter how late it was – I was going to continue searching for him throughout the night if necessary until I had found him and brought him safely home.
However, when WE finally come home like Stuart and let Jesus find us, Jesus doesn’t do what I did. He doesn’t wallop us for making him worry, he just skips that part altogether. Instead, like the father of the prodigal son, He starts running toward us arms wide hooting and hollering, calling for the party to begin. With that huge smile on His face, and His eyes saying only, “It doesn’t matter! It doesn’t matter, don’t you see? I don’t care where you’ve been! I don’t care what you’ve done! All that really matters, my precious precious one, is that YOU chose to come home.”