It happened— that moment of sheer terror every parent dreads. One moment Grace was there, the next she was gone…
We were at a small amusement park with my friend Charlotte and her daughter Emma when it happened. How long was she gone? Minutes? The worst minutes ever! Anxiety filled my chest with ice cold dread while the rest of my body was overcome with tingling heat of paralysis. I was calling her name, but I couldn’t hear my own voice. My eyes were frantically looking, but I could hardly see because my imagination was already entertaining “What-ifs” that I don’t want to mention. The worst “what-if” of all was: “What if I never find her? What if I never see her sweet smile, hear her precious laugh, feel her tiny arms wrap around my neck… what if she is gone— forever?”
Just at the moment when I was about to lose it I felt the hand of the Lord press on me. His voice came in to steady me: “She is right here.” And within a moment Charlotte came around the corner like a woman returning from a mission, with Grace in her arms. Grace with tears on her cheeks and worry in her eyes reaching to hug me. “Mama, I lost you! I was looking for you and I couldn’t find you!”
Have you ever lost a child? If not, maybe you’ve been a lost child? Or maybe you’ve just been lost in a scary place that you know is no place to be. If you’ve had any of these experiences you know to your core how both Grace and I felt. If you have never lost a child, maybe you shake your head and think: “I can’t imagine.” Well, I want you to imagine it for just a moment. And if you have lost a child before I want you to relive it, for just a moment. It’s an ugly feeling, but I don’t want to ever forget what that moment felt like… though I know it is already fading too much.
Why would I ask you to entertain such ugly thoughts? Why do I never want to forget this moment? Because I had a striking revelation occur when Grace was lost and I hope if you entertain those ugly thoughts and feelings for a moment, you might share that revelation with me.
For me, this was the most miserable, frantic panic I’ve ever felt. The deepest saddest pains and fears radiated through me when my child was lost. When Grace was found I rejoiced at holding her again. Then it struck me. I had just experienced an inkling of the intensity that the Lord feels when His child is lost— the pain that floods over Him at the worst question: “What if my child is never found?” The agony He must feel at being forever separated from that loved child. The thought of losing Grace forever about makes my heart stop— and I have only one child… He has billions. I imagine His pangs of anguish at our being lost. And His rejoicing heart over those who are found.
When Grace was lost Charlotte went into “mission mode.” She moved with force and purpose. There was a determination on her face and in her heart. It said: “That child belongs to us. We are finding her.” Think of the lengths by which we go to find something of value that we have lost and the intensity of our rejoicing when it is found. Jesus illustrates this in his parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin.
“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents…. “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’ (Luke 15)
Now I ask you if lost coins and sheep are of such value, how much more valuable is a lost child? May I remind you that you either are, or have been that child?
Do you belong to Him? If you do I want you to relive or create the “lost child” moment in your imagination— because I want you to just have a moment where you might grasp the intensity with which our Father in Heaven grieved you while you were lost… and how He never gave up and pursued you diligently. How the Son went out to find you scouring the ends of the earth, bearing the agony of death so that you could be returned to Him. If you do not belong to Him I ask you to press this illustration deep into your heart and know this: He is grieving you. And He is searching for you relentlessly. He is pursuing your heart and longs to have you fall into the arms of His eternal security.
For Grace the fear of this event was also evident. She was struck at having lost her Mama, her “home” and her security. She wandered around looking for me and cried out in her lost-ness. When I saw that she was crying I was glad. Not in a cruel way, but in a “Mama” way. I was glad she knew she was lost. I was glad she was frightened by it. It means she knows where she belongs and doesn’t want to lose that— the prospect of it frightened her as much as me. If you have ever been lost before you have an idea how Gracie felt. But this desperation of being lost goes much deeper than the temporal life. It has true spiritual implications. When I saw the fear and tears in Gracie’s eyes I realized this is us in our lost-ness. We wander around the world looking for “home” searching for security, crying out in our lost-ness.
Unfortunately for many of us we wander endlessly lost, even with God right on our heels pursuing us. We try to compensate by finding other means of “comfort” and “security” from this world. We foolishly believe these will satisfy us and often get rattled and disappointed when they don’t deliver. So we wander on eventually refusing to even admit anymore that we really are lost and afraid.
But the question is: What should that fear look like? I’d say it should look a little like Gracie’s fear of being separated from her parent.
I once heard a pastor describe an interesting interpretation for “The fear of the Lord.” He said if you are honest with yourself you can tell the things you most love by what you really fear. If your greatest fear is humiliation then your greatest love is success. If your greatest fear is losing people’s approval then your greatest love is human admiration. If your greatest fear is losing your life style then your greatest love is your comfort. If your greatest fear is the rejection of a loved one, then your greatest love is their approval.
Whatever your greatest love is, the loss of it renders one with a fear utterly paralyzing. The unfortunate thing is that we make these worldly things and relationships into ultimate things. When we turn good things into ultimate things we lose true perspective– and wisdom. We make foolish choices and we continue to wander in lost-ness.
But what if your greatest love was the Lord? If your greatest love was the Lord then your greatest fear would be losing Him. The thought of being separated from Him for any length of time, especially eternity, would be paralyzing. C.S. Lewis describes Hell as not necessarily the fire and brimstone we see in popular illustrations, but rather, real Hell is being left in the “outer darkness” separated from God forever. The Bible describes it as a place of “much weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Luke 13:28) Why? Because the souls trapped in Hell live in utter realization that they are lost— forever.
What is your greatest fear? If it is “fear of the Lord,” that does not mean you are afraid of God. It means you are afraid of ever being without Him. You want to hold onto Him more than any other thing in this life, because you love Him more than anything else. Amazingly when the fear of the Lord is your GREATEST fear that puts all other fears to rest, and it puts every good thing in its proper perspective. That is why the Proverbs refer to the Fear of the Lord as the beginning of both knowledge and wisdom. (Proverbs 1:7 and 9:10) Wanting to find God and never be separated from Him is part of the remedy for our lost-ness.
You know, even while Grace was lost she was looking for me, searching for her place of true security. When we were reunited we had a little chat. I told her we always had to keep an eye on each other. I have to keep an eye on her, and she has to keep an eye on me. If we are both always doing that we will never lose each other again. I’d venture to say our relationship with the Lord isn’t much different— Except that He’s always got His eye on us— we are the ones who take our eyes off Him. “Prone to wander” just as the famous hymn Come Thou Fount professes.
But just like Grace realized she was lost and desperately wanted to find me, God wants you to realize you are lost and He wants you to find Him! His greatest rescue mission is to find you! If you don’t know Him, believe me when I say, He is looking for you, pursuing you relentlessly. And yes, even if you are “already saved” there are sins that you are still “lost” to, and He is on a mission to save you from that lost-ness too. Believer or non-believer He is a God on a mission. With more intensity than my dear friend Charlotte in her quest to find Grace, He is looking for you, saying “That child is mine. That child belongs to me.” He is endlessly searching to find His lost children….
And now I ask you, are you like Gracie? Do you know how lost you really are?
Lost child— Are you looking to be found?
For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. ~Luke 19:10