I Made You, I Love You, I Lost You, I Searched For You,
I Found You and Now You Are Really Mine
As the parable of the prodigal son comes up in the lectionary for this Sunday, I have been thinking about the ways we become lost and God seeks always to find us. This morning in my prayer time, I thought about a modern day parable I heard long ago. I do not remember the context in which I heard it nor if the original author was cited. Therefore, much like those who heard Jesus' parables, I encountered it through oral tradition and am passing the story on to you, filling in the details I remember with my own adaptations.
A little girl lived on a farm with her family in the plains. One spring the rains came. Torrential rains occurred quickly and often. The river began to rise and flood the land of many homesteads. During particularly heavy rains, the girl's family fled to safety in a nearby town where extended family lived. As she was packing, she put one of her most treasured possessions-a little rag doll-on the bed by her suitcase. She and her mother had made the doll from left over strips of quilting cloth. Every day she played with the doll and every night she tucked the doll in the bed beside her before she went to sleep.
In the panic and rush of getting everything ready to go before the floods reached the house, the little girl forgot to pack the doll. That night as the little girl crawled into an unfamiliar bed, for the first time since she made the doll, the little girl slept alone. All night she tossed and turned worried about her beloved doll that was left behind. Over the weekend, as the rains continued to fall and the flood waters continued to rise, all the little girl could think about was the one she loved so much.
When the little girl and her family returned home, she was devastated to find her rag doll was not in her room and was nowhere to be found. The flood had washed the little girl's doll away. From that moment, the little girl began to search for the doll everywhere she went. Quite a bit of time had passed when one day, while the little girl was with her family in town, she spotted her doll in the window. The rag doll was in the window display of a salvage store where items that had been found from the floods were being sold in order to help raise money for flood relief.
She rushed into the store, and to her delight, as she reached for the doll in the window display, she could see it was indeed her doll. The doll she had made. The doll she loved. The doll she had lost. The only problem was now her beloved doll had a price tag on it. Since she did not have money of her own, she begged her parents to allow her to do chores to save up enough money to buy her doll back.
Day after day, the little girl did chores around the home, around the farm in order to earn money. She got up early and stayed up late to do the chores, sacrificing her free time. Finally, she had earned enough to go back to the store and reclaim her doll. All the way home, the little girl hugged her beloved doll tightly soaking in the presence of the doll back in her arms. When the little girl got home, she gently cleaned up the doll, removing all the mud and debris that clung to the doll. She made the doll new clothes to replace those that had been torn and ripped from the storms. That night as the little girl tucked in her beloved creation beside her, the little girl whispered, "I made you. I love you. I lost you. I searched for you. I finally found you. And now you are really mine."
Imagine how our Creator feels when we become lost, when the storms of trouble, doubt or despair carried us from God's presence, when the brokenness, the dirt, the grime of this world and our own sinfulness stick to us. We think we will never see, experience or know the goodness, the forgiveness or the grace of God again. Imagine how the One who has created us searches for us when we are lost. Imagine how God seeks to restore us, reclaim us, and renew in us a right relationship with our God, with others and with ourselves. We are never too far from God's reach. In the moments in which you feel lost and afraid, battered and torn, may you hear the Creator whispering to you, "I made you. I love you. I lost you. I searched for you. I finally found you. And now...you are really mine."
Blessings, Rev. Shana Johnson, Conference Minister