It was fifteen years ago that my mother went into the hospital for a somewhat routine surgery and never came back home. I was at my parents’ house when I got the call. The woman I had just walked the hallways of the hospital with earlier that day was barely hanging on to life due to a massive heart attack, probably brought on by complications with painkillers. I had to make the call to remove life support because my father and sister could not face the situation. It was reality crashing in on us all.
A person can feel so lost when life takes a sharp turn toward tragedy. If you live long enough, everyone finds himself or herself wandering and wondering how life can change so fast. Within the last fifteen years, both my sister and father have both passed away as well. I read a book about how one can feel abandoned when parents and family die, almost like an orphan. It doesn’t matter your age. How you have identified yourself from birth is now gone, because those people that created your identity are now gone. You feel like you are somehow a missing person, waiting to be found again.
Jesus liked to use parables to hammer home the promise that if you are lost, God will find you, and if you seek a way home, God will be waiting. You are, I am, at times, lost sheep or coins, or prodigals that have decided to put our will and desires above that of our Creator. But when we are lost, it is at those times that we become most precious to God.
Sometimes, we stray from the path without really knowing we are going astray. Sheep are not smart animals. A coin cannot think for itself. We can find ourselves somewhere else due to lack of planning, ignorance, or sin. The reality is that at these moments we can’t find our way back. We need a shepherd or coin owner to look for us, and not in a nonchalant manner. We need someone greater than ourselves to pull out all the stops to find us, because if not, we could be lost forever.
At other times, we simply need to face the facts and say that God’s will is more important than our own. Like the prodigal son, we can make our way back, but we have to fight fear, pride, and humiliation before traveling back home. But these are human emotions that do not speak to the truth: there is no reason to fear or be ashamed in the presence of our Father. He waits for us to return, and when we are seen in the distance coming toward our home, he does not sit still. With compassion, he runs toward us for the embrace we thought we might never experience again.
Time can harden our human hearts, but with God, time has no ill effect. If it has been five, ten, or even fifteen years, God will either continue to look for you or will run to you upon your return. The good news is then you can begin again. Through the love of God and the sacramental life of the Church, the transgressions of the past are no more. You were lost, but now you are found.
It was fifteen years ago we watched multiple passenger airliners fly directly into some of the tallest buildings in our world. 2,996 people lost their lives on that day, while six thousand others suffered physical injury as well. But we all suffered injury on that day. For many of us, our innocence was gone and the belief that we were untouchable was shattered.
Although we proved to be strong and resilient, as the years go by, in many ways we continue to be lost. Recent studies speak about the decline of belief in God and the tremendous exodus from our faith communities. We put faith in politics and politicians, in science, in money; and in many ways we have given in to fear and prejudice. As a nation we are following our will, much like the prodigal.
But there still is a Shepherd looking for his sheep. There is still someone looking for the lost treasure of our faith. And there is still a Father waiting to run toward his own with an embrace that will chase all fear and pain away.
On some days it seems like a long time since 9-11 and the passing of my mother, but on other days, it feels like yesterday. It’s funny how time plays tricks on the mind. But for God, time has no ill effect. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He was there consoling me in a hospital room, and he was there crying with us on that Tuesday morning. And God is here now, always looking, and always longing for that embrace.
Fifteen years. God the Father shouldn’t have to wait a single day more.
Tracy Earl Welliver, MTS
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
Through many dangers, toils, and snares
I have already come;
’Tis grace that brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
—John Newton (1725–1807)