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I think just about everyone has a story about getting lost.  The scariest and most memorable for our family happened when we lived in New Mexico.  We had taken the girls to the mall and were hanging out a little while in “Tilt”, an arcade.  The girls must have been 2, 4 and 5.  The arcade was one of those that was the size of a store and rather dark filled with all kinds of video games, skeeball, basketball, riding games, etc.  Winning tickets was the goal so we split up and took the girls around to try different games.  I don’t know how or when it happened, but I thought John had Kristine and he thought I had her.  After watching Kimmi play a whack-a-mole game I looked to see where Kristine was.  She wasn’t with us so I looked down the way to where John and Kaitlin were playing.  I didn’t see her there either.  I called out to John and sure enough, he didn’t have her.  I began to panic.  We started calling out her name and rushing around the arcade, looking behind and around all the games, asking anyone we saw if they had seen our little girl.  No one had.  The staff hadn’t seen her but said they’d call security.  All of the sudden nothing mattered but finding her.  I didn’t care who heard me shouting her name or saw me racing around trying to find her.  Then John said, “I’m going out into the mall to see if I can find her.  You stay here.”  So Kimmi, Kaitlin and I knelt down right there in the arcade and prayed.  “God, please.  Please.  Don’t let anything happen to Kristine.  Please help John know where to go.  Please help us find her!”  I couldn’t even cry I was so scared, my mind filled with stories I had heard about abductions and what sometimes happened to little children enticed away from their parents by strangers.

As John left the arcade he had an impulse to go to the right so he headed that way down the main corridor of the mall.  Several stores down he heard a little one crying inside a jewelry store and decided to go in and see.  Sure enough, two women who worked there were holding her and she was crying.  They had heard her out in the hallway and pulled her into their store until someone came for her.  John thanked them, whisked her up and ran back to me.  I couldn’t grab her and hold her fast enough.  I wept out of relief.  Needless to say we didn’t feel like playing any more games at the arcade and went home.

Two Christmases ago my entire family was together at my parents’ home in Columbus, Ohio.  That means there were 8 adults, 5 teenagers and 3 little ones ages 6, 3, and 2.  One night we went to see the lights at the Columbus Zoo.  All bundled up in our hats and coats we strolled around looking at the animals, riding the carousel, drinking hot chocolate.  Shortly after we left the snack building someone said, “Where’s Nathan?”  My 6-year-old nephew was nowhere to be found.  Instantly everyone stopped in their tracks, turned around and started searching.  We fanned out in a long line and began retracing our steps, looking especially carefully at every small boy in a coat and hat like his, but none of them were him.  My mom stayed back in case he showed up there and cried softly while she prayed we’d find him.  It was crowded and dark, not the best circumstances to look for anyone.  In a few moments, my brother walked up with Nathan in tow and we all celebrated with relief!  Nathan had slowed down a little too much after our hot chocolate break and lost sight of all of us as we walked away.  Being the smart boy he is he went to the nearest adult, who happened to be a police officer, and told him he was lost.

When you’ve lost someone you love you can think of nothing else until you find him or her.  All other thoughts seem to be pushed back and unimportant, trivial in light of not having your child with you.  The thought of anything bad happening to them fills your heart with panic and fear.  You would do anything, putting aside all inhibitions, whatever it takes to get them back.

If we feel so strongly about our children and we’re fallible human beings, imagine how God feels.  He is the original Father and is, in His very being, love.  Jesus told stories about a woman who lost a valuable coin and searched everywhere ’til she found it, a shepherd who lost one lamb out of a flock of 100 and left 99 of them to get the one stray.  Remember the poignant story of the prodigal son and how Jesus said that the father looked to the horizon every day, hoping to see his wayward son coming home?  He was glad to have his other son still at home, but was consumed with the one who was lost, still out there hurting and heading toward trouble.

I admit that I don’t have the burden I should have for people who are still lost – a burden that impels me to more action.  I’ve been praying God would give it to me more.  I’ve been praying He would help me to have his heart for lost people, for people who are headed the wrong way, walking away from their Father and in danger of not being able to come back to be with Him.

Maybe in our churches we should post “missing” pictures on the walls to remind us that although we’re happy to have the people who are already there, we can’t just sit back and take it easy.  We need to be desperate to find the ones who haven’t been found yet, who maybe don’t even realize they have a Father who loves them so much He’d give everything just to have them home.

[Jesus said] “Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’ Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.

“Or imagine a woman who has ten coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and scour the house, looking in every nook and cranny until she finds it? And when she finds it you can be sure she’ll call her friends and neighbors: ‘Celebrate with me! I found my lost coin!’ Count on it—that’s the kind of party God’s angels throw every time one lost soul turns to God.”  Luke 15:4-10  The Message