“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” Luke 19:10
My neighbour rang the doorbell today. She looked anxious and I could immediately tell all was not well. It appeared that their treasured tortoise had tired of its lockdown and made the great escape. They had been confining their search to their own garden, until their son casually remarked he had noticed the garden gate had been left open this morning (but did not think to do anything about it).
As I looked across the close, I could see individuals in each garden peering into the darker corners and underneath shrubs and hedges. This emergency needed as many eyes as possible. Yes of course we would join them, and I hastened to volunteer our services.
No sooner had I done so than the cry went up “Here she is!” and sure enough deep from within our bed of irises she was lifted up in triumph by one of the search party. Unlike her anxious owners, she didn’t seem to show any kind of emotion; no gratitude, no joy at being safe again, not even any resentment at having her big adventure brought to an early end.
As we stood around (two metres apart, of course) at the end of our drive, laughing and joking about the whole episode, I suddenly saw us as the friends and neighbours in the stories Jesus told, called together to share in the joy of the reunion of something lost with its concerned owner. Having only just recently reflected on the way that the ancient scriptures can hit us in different times with a new relevance, I found myself encountering that very experience.
What a reminder of the love and concern that our God has when his children decide to go it alone and cross the boundaries set for their own protection, of the passion and determination with which he sets out to search everywhere for them. What an insight into how special we are to his heart and the pain he feels when our relationship with him is broken. What a picture of the joy that is to be shared when the feelings of panic subside, when the “might-have-beens” remain unfulfilled predictions, when things can be put back onto the same footing as they were before they went wrong.
Now in an ideal world, that tortoise has learned her lesson and from now on she will stay within limits. But having tried the great escape once, she may decide another time to try for something further from home than our iris bed. What is certain is that her owners would go through the whole search process again, because being rescued and re-united is so important, however many times it happens.
And so it is with God and us…