Sunday, July 24, 2016

lost and found

he took time to call and let us know what he'd found. said he had no idea why it just now appeared, but there it was one morning, sitting on the counter in the camp office.

"right away i knew it was a special bible," he told me.

"jody when y'all bring the kids up to camp next week, stop in and i'll make sure to get this back to you."

and so we did.
yesterday, we brought home our son's old bible, left at summer camp who knows how many years ago.
sweet to see, again, that little, blue leather bible we gave tyler on his 10th birthday.
marked up, worn out and, yes, one summer, sadly, somehow left behind.

lost, but found.

tyler is now almost 19 and too old to attend camp highland. but last week his younger siblings were there. no telling what they all left behind. the camp's founder and director, bill chapman, probably won't be making a personal phone call concerning a discarded towel, a single tennis shoe or a forgotten toothbrush, but how grateful i am that he called us about tyler's bible.

after retrieving the kids and the bible, we loaded up the car: tired campers, musty sleeping bags and suitcases stuffed with all levels of foul looking laundry ...  and we began our trek home from this dear place in the north georgia mountains. with my husband driving, i had the chance to thumb through my boy's old, blue bible. a reunion of sorts. and though i struggle remembering anything these days, i clearly remembered the moment -- the birthday -- when we gave it to him nine years ago. what's more, i could picture this bible on his nightstand. for many years i'd go into his room in the morning to wake him and find the bible close by my sleeping son.

it was this bible he read from after accepting Jesus as His Savior many years ago. bill was absolutely right, it is a special bible. and i'm thankful to have it back.

but this next morning,  as it sits here on our own kitchen counter, i keep thinking about not lost and found things, but about lost and found people, particularly kids. maybe it's that my own kids are getting older and now at an age where they are faced with decisions determined by their personal beliefs. they are well into a season where their faith isn't about something their parents wrap up and present to them like a birthday gift. no, that might kind of work when they are little, but at some point it has to become just them and Jesus. our job as parents -- pointing, directing and guiding our kids spiritually -- will always be important, but there certainly does come a time when we must move out of the driver seat and allow them to take over the wheel of what they really, truly, absolutely believe.
... or don't believe.

and for so many, i know this is a time when parents watch their children fearfully. 
afraid they will become lost. flounder. fail. even, fall away.

it's a scary time.
it's a real time.
and, inevitably, it's a wake up kind of time.

with 4 of our 5 kids already crossed over the teenage line, i know, full well, what it looks like to begin letting go -- of all things: physical and spiritual. and because (thankfully) i have teens who talk pretty freely and share (at least some) things with me, i know, also, the temptations and tests they face daily. i don't know it all perfectly, but i have an idea of what this world is worshipping when it turns its back on belief in God.

i also cannot ignore what the studies say: surveys are showing that somewhere between 70 and 80 percent of church-raised kids leave their faith after graduating high school. that's an awful lot of kids being raised in noah's ark themed nurseries saying no to religion as young adults.

at a heartbreaking and more personal level, i've watched this happen in my own world with friends and family.

no matter what we might assure ourselves of, or comfort ourselves with, we know that it is entirely possible that those little ones singing sunday school songs in our backseats might grow up and someday cease in sharing our beliefs.

it happens.

recently i had a conversation with a woman who's daughter is running fast and far from Jesus. the faith her parents taught her as a child she now deems "a mere fairytale." this mother-friend of mine wept to know how lost her daughter has recently become.

the rejection is real.
the heartbreak is real.
but, real also, is the hope.

there is hope. and that's the message i wish us all to hold tight to. like that little, blue bible and that phone call from our friend, the camp director, bill. getting lost is all too possible, but, oh, dear ones, the joy of being found. and, the good news: it's exactly why God sent His son -- to find.

to find you. to find me. to find all of us who have wandered away and become lost.

Jesus, God's son, came to rescue, to redeem and, ultimately, to reunite God with his children.

in that recently found bible is the story of the prodigal son -- the boy who left home and ran from his family and his faith.
maybe it resonates with you.
maybe you can imagine.
maybe you know exactly what that story looks like in your own home.
or maybe you just fear it.

but, loved ones, the story doesn't stop with the boy's running away, but with the father's running toward him. when the father saw his world-bruised son limping up the lane, ravaged and repentant, he ran to him, embraced him, and celebrated him all they way back to his home.
how lavish this father's love.
how lavish our Father's love.

there's hope!
there's no place too dark, no sin too deep, no wound too wide that cannot be run to and wrapped up in the wild love of our Father's eternal embrace.

"but we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of your was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found." ~ luke 15:32

that prodigal son's return party wouldn't have happened without the pain of his wandering away. i don't get why that has to happen, but, perhaps, sometimes it does.

maybe sometimes we have to be truly lost, in order to be truly found.

is it possible, that for some, it is better to leave and lose and, even get lost a little, in order to authentically live? to live, not in our pretending faith passed smoothly down from our parents, but in the gift of real grace that only God can really give.

there's not a parent out there who wishes their child to leave his faith or become lost. it goes against every part of our parenting instinct. of course we all pray that our children discover a deep and authentic relationship with God early on and never have even one day of doubt.
i pray that for my children, too.

but, we know, that isn't always the way it works. and in light of all that i am hearing and watching around me, i want to encourage those of you who have experienced otherwise. moms and dads, i don't know what kind of wandering or rebellion you might be facing, but i want to encourage you to hang on. hang on to the hope that our faith isn't based on a mere magical fairytale, but is about a real Father who will run hard the distance to redeem His children.

and like tyler's bible, it could take some time. it might even return a little worse for the wear, but there's joy to see it recovered and restored and (re)placed right there on his night stand.

the parenting road is not an easy one, but be reminded: our children, first and foremost, belong to Him. they are the sheep of His pasture and our good, good Father sent His own Son to come to the lost, to find the lost, and to bring them back to His fold.

  "and when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. and when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'rejoice with me, for i have found my sheep that was lost.' just so, i tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance." ~ luke 15:5-7