A few years ago I was experiencing a rough patch in life and decided to seek counseling for my concerns. One day after an appointment, I strolled through a few downtown Indianapolis stores next to the building where my counselor's office was located.
One business attracted my attention because of all of the homemade items displayed in the window. Going into the shop, I was surrounded by books, unusual mugs, unique gifts for any occasion, and jewelry. I lingered over the jewelry cases filled with necklaces, earrings and bracelets. Not being a fan of jewelry, I was surprised at my interest.
Many of the necklaces had words engraved on a single silver circle. One caught my attention and stopped my heart. Inscribed next to a small anchor were the words - hope anchors the soul. The words brought comfort to my troubled heart.
"Oh, my!" I thought, looking at the price displayed on a sign next to the case. "I've never spent that much on an article of clothing or pair of shoes!"
I hoped to distract myself from the necklace that carried words offering encouragement for troubling times, so I wandered around the store. Before long, I meandered back to the jewelry case to stare at the necklace whose words blanketed my heart and stirred my soul.
Hesitatingly, I asked the clerk to open the case so I could hold the necklace. I took a deep breath. How could I work out the purchase?
"I want the necklace," I heard myself saying. The clerk found a small box to hold my purchase. I put the necklace on when I got in the car and for eighteen months, I received comfort and encouragement whenever I touched the circle around my neck.
Last Sunday, I went to swim at the Fishers YMCA. I had a lot of energy bubbling within that needed to come out. With snow falling overhead and ice forming underfoot, my usual Sunday walk was not possible. Spending forty minutes on a treadmill at the Y was not appealing so I chose to swim.
I took off my necklace and hung it on the hook inside the locker. I swam, showered, dressed and went home. Monday morning, I reached for my necklace when I awakened. It was gone.
I gathered my swim bag, rushed to the Y, and raced to the locker I used the day before. I swung open the door and looked on the hook - nothing was there. I swept my hand across the locker shelf, looked on the floor, and picked through the lost and found at the front desk. No necklace.
Hope was lost.
Jesus talks about lost things in the Bible; a lost sheep, a lost coin and a lost son - all of which were found. My necklace was lost, but not found. Oh, my!
Reflecting on my life, I cannot remember losing any object that was meaningful, but I do remember losing people. I lost nurturing experiences and opportunities for enrichment, but losing people, and opportunities with them cannot be replaced - time passes and those moments will never come again.
Losing people created holes in my heart and gaps in experiences that are hard if not impossible to fill. Last week I visited a friend I had not seen for several months. I said, as I left, "I don't like to loose touch with people who mean a lot to me."
A few days later I visited my 100 year-old friend, Annabel, whose 'motherly influence' has touched and enriched my life for over 35 years. As she and I sat and talked, I realized I have lost the Annabel who encouraged me as a young wife and mother, wrote letters and sent cards that offered blessing and love. Annabel was confused as we spoke, struggling to find words to say and forgetting what I told her moments before. Even when I showed her pictures of our daughters, for whom Annabel was a surrogate grandmother, she did not stay grounded.
Losing people in the churches Mike pastored was always difficult. When we moved, we left them behind. I treasured these dear folks in the congregation who helped fill losses I experienced growing up through kind and thoughtful ways.
Although I miss the necklace around my neck, it was just a piece of metal. Losing people creates an ache in my heart that I carry with me everywhere. I can surely return to the store and purchase another necklace, but finding a balm to soothe my heart is not so easily found.
Jesus Finds Us
Looking back at Jesus' story of the lost sheep (Matthew 8:10 or Luke 15:3-9) provides comfort and hope. This parable shows how a shepherd who has lost one sheep from a herd of 100, will leave the others to search for the lost one. The shepherd does not return until the lost one is found.
Jesus, like the shepherd with a lost sheep, is focused and directed to come to each of us until His love brings comfort to soothe an aching heart.
For me, loss seems to be a daily companion as my past awakens to my present. Others may have loss through death, unemployment, impaired relationships, despair, illness or feelings of rejection, loneliness or envy. Jesus' parable about the lost sheep is a metaphor for the ways God is always searching for us, every moment of the day, to fill our souls with hope for the myriad of circumstances life presents.
Maybe one of these days I'll drive to the store where I purchased the necklace in late 2014 to see if there is another one. Right now, I want to rest in Jesus' path of love that weaves through my heart and patches the holes formed by loss.
Prayer: God, You pursue us always wanting to offer care and presence for every need we have. When loss overwhelms and makes us feel isolated, increase our awareness of how the shepherd left the flock to search for the one that was lost. Your filling and patching offers the truest, deepest hope to our souls. Amen.