Lost Sheep

Read: Matthew 18:11-14
I’ve read these scriptures 100 times over, and if you include the times
I have heard sermons on it, or read a devotional, the number would
most likely increase exponentially. I know that Jesus would leave the
99, He has, and He will do it again, just to save the 1 lost sheep.
In the short twenty-something years that I’ve been around, I have had
multiple reactions to this story. Like everyone else I process these
stories through my life experiences. I internalize them when I feel
connected to one of the characters. This makes is personal and I feel as though I really understand what Jesus was saying, and come to find
out, all my thoughts were quite off.
As a dedicated 99, I get frustrated at the 1. The 1 just can’t seem to
get it right. How dare you? Jesus died for your sins and yet you treat
Him like trash! Can you not just follow Him? That thought process
normally happens when I’m up on a mountain top where I carelessly
have forgotten just Who placed me there.
Sometimes, I connect myself to Jesus in this story – can I give you a
word of advice? You’re not Jesus, nor were you intended to be. And
despite what you might be thinking right now, when you try to
understand a story by thinking the character you mostly relate to is
Jesus, you may just be headed down a road where you try to do all the
saving. But I digress, there are sometimes that when I read scripture,
my brain says: “Yes, I am most like Jesus in this! I relate to Him the
most.” When this occurs, instead of becoming more like Jesus, I try to
take His place. I see that 1 and instead of pointing to Jesus, the One
True Savior, I lend out my own hand.
When I’m the 1 though, that 1 who just can’t get her act together, my
mental thought processes are quite different. Shame enters in.
“Goodness, Ali,” I say to myself… “Jesus died for you, and look how
you’re thanking Him! You’re worthless. You don’t deserve Him or His
love.” Now some of you might say that these thoughts are slipped into
my mind from our enemy, and while sometimes I know this is true, I
think it is important to realize that sometimes our biggest enemy is
ourselves. My brain really is that mean to me and I’d be willing to bet
that I’m not the only one.
With all these different approaches that I’ve had to this story in the
Bible, I thought I had touched it from all angles. Surely, one was close
to being right? Let me tell you my friend, just when you start thinking
that, you’re in for a lesson…
Many of you may know that I’m a teacher of the littles. Some of the
littlest of littles. The 5-year-old littles that forget whether they’ve
eaten lunch, or how many recesses there are per day. By the way, Ihave not forgotten what I was writing about. I promise this all ties
together. Now, where was I? Oh yes, the littles, and recess. Can I
share with you just how God opened my eyes to Matthew 18:11-14 using
my littles?
One beautiful school day recess time came for the group of littles that
share my classroom and on this particular day, I didn’t have recess
duty. Relieved at the promise of 20 minutes of quiet, I walked them
down to the recess doors, checked to make sure the teachers that had
duty were out there, dropped off the children and went back my
classroom to get some of my to-do list done.
Twenty minutes passed and my sweet kiddos came walking back in. As I
gave them directions, they went to gather the supplies and made their
way to their carpet squares to get ready for our math lesson. It didn’t
take even a minute, once everyone was sitting on the rug, for me to
become slightly panicked. “Where’s A and R?” I asked, trying to hide
the panic from them.
“Still outside…” They all replied.
As I asked them why, I could see on their faces that they were
starting to worry. No one knew why they were still outside. I stepped
out to see if maybe they were lingering in the hallway, but to no avail.
Another teacher offered to go look for them and my heart twisted.
While I thanked her for the help, they aren’t her babies. They’re mine.
I’ve been given the responsibility for them. It’s my job to find them. I
know them. I know where to look. After what seemed like eternity she
came back to offer to watch my other children while I went to find
them. It took everything in me not to run outside, but with other
groups of children in the hallways I did my best to show them the
example of “quick walking because you’re not supposed to run in the
hallway”. I want to add here that my students that were outside, were
never left without supervision. Other recesses were going on, and they
were perfectly safe, they just were not where they should be.
As I got outside, I looked through the crowd on the playground for
them. When I found them, my heart loosened a little from the panic it had taken hold of. Once their hands were in mine and we were on the
way back to the classroom I could breathe again. I thought about what
to say, how to respond. When my two littles realized that I had come
to get them and the rest of our class was not with me, they became
worried. They were apologetic and scared. My response was calm: “It’s
okay, you’re safe now. We are going to go back to class and start math.
It’s all okay. Everyone is glad you’re safe.” As I was talking I assessed
my feelings. There was no anger. I wasn’t mad at them for not hearing
the whistle when our recess was over. I didn’t want them to be
punished for their mistake. I didn’t even want them to know they had
caused my heart to hurt so much, I just wanted them to know that I
cared that they were safe and I wanted them to feel loved.
Please know that I say this next part with caution. I don’t want to ever
claim to hear the voice of God flippantly or make you think it’s
something that happens often or that I even take it for granted. I
know though that His voice was there that day. As all these thoughts
were running through my head, as we walked back to our classroom
hand-in-hand, as I explained to them it was all okay, I heard Him. Also,
may I preface this, if you’re new to my writing, Jesus talks to me in a
way I understand. Sometimes it’s sweet and kind, other times it’s
sarcastic and witty, and lots of times it’s a bit of both. Our
conversation went something like this:
Jesus: “You went back to the playground for 2 of your students… huh…
isn’t that like 10% of your class?”
Me: “Well yeah! They’re important. They would have been so scared if
they would have realized they were with a different group of kids and
teachers and I hadn’t been there!”
Jesus: “Oh, you’re right… I would know nothing about that. I didn’t
teach about that 1 in 99 before either…”
Me: “……”
Jesus: “Ali, what you feel right now, is just a small bit of the love I
feel when I go get my 1, any of my ones. I’m not mad at the 1. It’s My
job to save them, but it’s My job because I chose it to be. I want them had taken hold of. Once their hands were in mine and we were on the
way back to the classroom I could breathe again. I thought about what
to say, how to respond. When my two littles realized that I had come
to get them and the rest of our class was not with me, they became
worried. They were apologetic and scared. My response was calm: “It’s
okay, you’re safe now. We are going to go back to class and start math.
It’s all okay. Everyone is glad you’re safe.” As I was talking I assessed
my feelings. There was no anger. I wasn’t mad at them for not hearing
the whistle when our recess was over. I didn’t want them to be
punished for their mistake. I didn’t even want them to know they had
caused my heart to hurt so much, I just wanted them to know that I
cared that they were safe and I wanted them to feel loved.
Please know that I say this next part with caution. I don’t want to ever
claim to hear the voice of God flippantly or make you think it’s
something that happens often or that I even take it for granted. I
know though that His voice was there that day. As all these thoughts
were running through my head, as we walked back to our classroom
hand-in-hand, as I explained to them it was all okay, I heard Him. Also,
may I preface this, if you’re new to my writing, Jesus talks to me in a
way I understand. Sometimes it’s sweet and kind, other times it’s
sarcastic and witty, and lots of times it’s a bit of both. Our
conversation went something like this:
Jesus: “You went back to the playground for 2 of your students… huh…
isn’t that like 10% of your class?”
Me: “Well yeah! They’re important. They would have been so scared if
they would have realized they were with a different group of kids and
teachers and I hadn’t been there!”
Jesus: “Oh, you’re right… I would know nothing about that. I didn’t
teach about that 1 in 99 before either…”
Me: “……”
Jesus: “Ali, what you feel right now, is just a small bit of the love I
feel when I go get my 1, any of my ones. I’m not mad at the 1. It’s My
job to save them, but it’s My job because I chose it to be. I want to know they’re safe. I want them to know they’re loved. And I want
them to know that the rest of My children are happy they’re back safe
and sound.”
My heart stilled, the three points of view that had so dominantly been
in place had ceased to exist. They had quieted to the Truth of His love.
That’s what happens to lies when they are confronted by His
never-ending love, they have no choice but to fall back.
My dear friend, I don’t know where on that spectrum of thoughts you
fall. Maybe you’re the 99, strong in your walk with the Lord, but you
tend to get annoyed at those who can’t get it together; maybe you’re
the compassionate servant, holding out your hand to the lost, but
forgetting you’re not their savior; maybe you’re the 1 that keeps
messing up. Jesus has a word for you today. To the 99, love the ones.
To the compassionate, keeping loving, just remember Who does the
saving! To the ones, you are loved, let Him make you safe; He’s not mad
at you. To all of His children, His love, His never-ending love, is much
deeper and everlasting than our beings can even imagine.

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