Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: …”[W]hat woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” From Luke 15
I can relate to this woman. I picture her as middle aged, trying to keep a lot of related and unrelated tasks in balance every day, feeling absent-minded from time to time.
Okay, okay. I know I’m projecting my life onto hers, but let’s go with that for a minute. Because I don’t just feel as though I know this woman; I feel as though I am this woman. At least once a day, I lose my pen, which is why I keep several in my desk drawer. Several times a day, I mislay my reading glasses, and now I own several cheap pairs and keep them around where I might need them: in the car (for reading maps), purse, kitchen (recipes), bathroom (pill bottles—what size print is that?), desk. How can it be, then, that I sometimes find myself without a pair? I have, on one occasion, gotten off an airplane in a distant city and had to head straight to the drugstore because I had forgotten to bring glasses.
Then, there are the times when I really think I’ve lost my mind, such as searching for my glasses, then catching sight of myself in the mirror, where I see them hanging around my neck. Or looking around wildly for my cell phone while I’m talking into it.
Right now, I’ve been looking for a pair of earrings for a couple of weeks. I have looked in all the usual places several times. I’ve emptied my purse (where I discovered three measuring tapes). I didn’t find the earrings in an old purse I checked, but did find two pieces of chocolate from a place I visited over a year ago. (Do you think they’re still safe to eat?) I’ve searched my desk drawer, dresser, bathroom, kitchen. The thing is, I know I put them in a “safe” place. If only I could remember where that was…
So, I understand this woman. I don’t think this is the first time she’s swept the house, looking for this stupid coin. She’s searched the entire house three or four times. She’s been through the trash, looked under the beds, turned over every jar, checked her husband’s pockets, looked through the children’s playthings. Everything that glints in the sunlight makes her hopeful, then disappointed. She lies awake at night, wondering where she has failed to look, or where she might look again more thoroughly. She tells her husband about it, tells her friends about it, talks about it when she’s buying bread with another coin. She’s losing her mind. And then one day, when she is sweeping in a place she’s already been over more than once, she hears a metallic tinkle as the little coin scuttles across the floor. She’s afraid to hope, but there it is!
And so she goes back to all her friends, the same ones who have had to listen to her talk about losing the coin, and they share her joy and relief. It has not been lost forever. It was there all along, just hidden.
While the parable is indeed designed to make the reader sympathize with the woman, she is really a symbol of God and of God’s untiring love.
No matter how lost we may feel, or truly are, God doesn’t give up on us. No matter what stresses make us lose sight of the good, no matter what bad decisions have taken us down a difficult trail, no matter what life circumstance has troubled us seemingly beyond help, God is there. We may be alienated from everyone and everything, but we are not lost to God.
There is nothing I can do, nor anything that can be done to me, that takes me out of reach of the God who is there. God doesn’t forget where I am or who I am. Even when I feel lost, God has hidden me in a safe place. Unlike us, God remembers where the safe place is, so we are never truly lost from God at all.
Oh, and if you happen to see my earrings, would you give me a call?
© Melissa Bane Sevier, 2010