It was one of those days when the sun poured gold into the air, and flecks of light floated in shafts that fell through the branches of yellow leaf and green.
We’d had dinner at a place on the edge of a lake, and now we were going back to town. There was a simple way to get there, but she didn’t take it. Instead, we
drove the country roads with the corn rows flicking by, each one visible for a half second, then gone. “Hello, hello, hello,” they said, then “Good-bye, bye, bye, bye.”
The soybeans, we agreed, had turned burgundy overnight, but it was the cornfields we watched, as if we were waiting for the waters to open, as if we might cross over Jordan. ~Joyce Sutphen “Country Roads” from After Words
Traveling the country roads around here can feel a bit like seeking the entrance to the promised land: we can see it, just over there, glowing with so much potential. We haven’t quite found the way, it flicks by so quickly. It’s not yet our time, so we tread hungrily on the outskirts almost tasting the promise and waiting for the invitation to come.
In a daring and beautiful creative reversal, God takes the worse we can do to Him and turns it into the very best He can do for us. ~Malcolm Guite from The Word in the Wilderness
Sam does barn chores with me, always has. He runs up and down the aisles as I fill buckets, throw hay, and he’ll explore the manure pile out back and the compost pile and check out the dove house and have stand offs with the barn cats (which he always loses). We have our routine. When I get done with chores, I whistle for him and we head to the house.
We always return home together.
Except this morning. I whistled when I was done and his furry little fox face didn’t appear as usual. I walked back through both barns calling his name, whistling, no signs of Sam. I walked to the fields, I walked back to the dog yard, I walked the road (where he never ever goes), I scanned the pond (yikes), I went back to the barn and glanced inside every stall, I went in the hay barn where he likes to jump up and down on stacked bales, looking for a bale avalanche he might be trapped under, or a hole he couldn’t climb out of. Nothing.
I’m really anxious about him at this point, fearing the worst. He was nowhere to be found, utterly lost.
Passing through the barn again, I heard a little faint scratching inside one Haflinger’s stall, which I had just glanced in 10 minutes before. The mare was peacefully eating hay. Sure enough, there was Sam standing with his feet up against the door as if asking what took me so long. He must have scooted in when I filled up her water bucket, and I closed the door not knowing he was inside, and it was dark enough that I didn’t see him when I checked. He and his good horse friend kept it their secret.
Making not a whimper or a bark when I called out his name, passing that stall at least 10 times looking for him, he just patiently waited for me to open the door and set him free.
It’s a Good Friday.
The lost is found even when he never felt lost to begin with.
Yet he was lost to me. And that is all that matters. We have no idea how lost we are until someone comes looking for us, doing whatever it takes to bring us home.
Sam was just waiting for a closed door to be opened. And today, of all days, that door is thrown wide open.
Though you are homeless Though you’re alone I will be your home Whatever’s the matter Whatever’s been done I will be your home I will be your home I will be your home In this fearful fallen place I will be your home When time reaches fullness When I move my hand I will bring you home Home to your own place In a beautiful land I will bring you home I will bring you home I will bring you home From this fearful fallen place I will bring you home I will bring you home ~Michael Cardh
The fence was down. Led by their bellwether bellies, the sheep had toddled astray. The neighbor farmer’s woods or coyotes might have got them, or the far road. I remember the night, the moon-colored grass we waded through to look for them, the oaks tangled and dark, like starting a story midway. We gazed over seed heads to the barn toppled in the homestead orchard. Then we saw the weather of white wool, a cloud in the blue moving without sound as if charmed by the moon beholding them out of bounds. Time has not tightened the wire or righted the barn. The unpruned orchard rots in its meadow and the story unravels, the sunlight creeping back like a song with nobody left to hear it. ~David Mason from “Mending Time” in The Sound: New and Selected Poems
How often do we, like sheep, wander astray – out of the broken down barn, or through the fallen fence, into the orchards of rotting delights?
And Someone, always Someone, comes looking for us, lost and always hungering and endangered.
We need our Shepherd and we know His voice. May we be ready to be led home.
Flee for a while from your tasks, hide yourself for a little space from the turmoil of your thoughts. Come, cast aside your burdensome cares, and put aside your laborious pursuits. For a little while give your time to God, and rest in him for a little while. Enter into the inner chamber of your mind, shut out all things save God and whatever may aid you in seeking God; and having barred the door of your chamber, seek him. ~Anselm of Canterbury: The Major Works
Yesterday I needed to leave work early;
near tears, physically spent, too fried
to keep listening, problem solving, comforting.
I needed to feel something other than needed.
I needed neediness myself — a sorry place to be.
It’s happened before, many times:
middle of the night mothering a vomiting child,
middle of the night mothering a frail mother,
middle of the night worried about the world.
Yet morning comes because God never left,
maybe not bright and shining and wondrous
maybe a weeping rock,
but if I gently close the door to all that is not God,
I will find Him looking for me.
12 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. Matthew 18:12-13
There is no greater fear than losing hold and sight of your precious child in a crowd; all you can see is a blur of heads and bodies that don’t belong to the one you love. You have no idea where they are or how to begin to find them.
Desperation grows by the second.
I’ve felt that panic and I’ve seen it in other parents’ eyes.
When we displayed our Haflingers at our regional fair year after year where thousands of people would pass by our stalls daily, we became unofficially designated as a “safe place” to go for lost children who knew their parents would know to look for them near the golden ponies with the snowy white manes and tails. We saw quite a few tearful reunions over the years and there is nothing like the relief and gratitude when the lost are found.
We are sought out when we wander; we are missed desperately.
We who are lost should seek out safe refuge with those who will protect us until we are found.
When found, we embrace and weep with the One who has risked all to look for us.
May my eyes see, my ears hear, my heart understand. He prepares me with parable.
…the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls.When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
Matthew 13: 45-46
Suppose a person entering a house were to feel heat on the porch, and going further, were to feel the heat increasing, the more they penetrated within. Doubtless, such a person would believe there was a fire in the house, even though they did not see the fire that must be causing all this heat.
A similar thing will happen to anyone who considers this world in detail: one will observe that all things are arranged according to their degrees of beauty and excellence, and that the nearer they are to God, the more beautiful and better they are. St. Thomas Acquinas from Sermon-Conferences of St. Thomas Aquinas on the Apostles’ Creed
Rather than stumbling upon the great treasure when least expecting it, we can be looking for the treasure in every day moments, approaching closer and closer, feeling the heat, knowing what it will cost us to lay hold of it.
We know it when we find it, feel it in our bones and will sacrifice all we own to have it.
There is nothing more beautiful, more valuable, more everlasting.
May my eyes see, my ears hear, my heart understand. He prepares me with parable.
Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth ‘thrown in’: aim at Earth and you will get neither. ~ C.S. Lewis from The Joyful Christian
The night sky was still dim and pale. There, peeping among the cloud wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach. ~J.R.R. Tolikien, The Return of the King
We long for a heaven that feels so elusive;
we who are so weary
and with so much need
seek out Light so seemingly
beyond our reach.
Yet by reaching beyond the here and now
we find heaven descended to us
in His incarnate earthliness.
No shadow cast in this worldly darkness,
and no iron nails
can quell the beauty
of His everlasting brilliance.