reconciling things

“Allow it all to happen: beauty and terror…” Rilke

In the book of Luke, chapter 15 there is the parable of the good shepherd going after the one lost sheep.

Did you grow up in the era of the Sunday School flannelgraph? (Kids today have no idea what they are missing. If you know, you know.) If you did, you know the image of the sheep, stuck in a bush. (Probably played double duty with the story of Abraham not sacrificing Isaac.) And you know of the good shepherd—Jesus in his long robes—and how nicely the little lamb fit over his shoulders. Charming to be sure.

The parable is interesting though. What shepherd in his right mind would leave 99 sheep to chase after one little pain the ass, who, if you have ever worked with sheep, will probably stray again? (They are persistently rebellious like that.) It always seemed an odd analogy to leave the flock for one.

My pastor said today it is a picture of love and how love compels us to do things that are not even understandable and in the light of reason seem unreasonable.

Jesus loves me with that kind of love. Yes, he loves everyone—and every little sparrow and every perfectly formed daisy.

But, I am his favorite. I feel it, you know? I believe he really would come to rescue me from anything—including myself. I say this with confidence because he has done it—time and time again. He rescues me, cleans me off, and adds me back to his flock.

The next parable in Luke 15 is interesting because it is of a woman who looses a coin. This coin is worth about a days wages for a minimum wage worker. So what even is that? Fifty bucks? Maybe eighty? She goes in search of this coin—and not just looked around for it in all the obvious places. No, she sweeps out the whole house. She turns the place upside down, lighting a candle to see all the dark places. She thoroughly sweeps the whole place.

Picture this: moving the furniture, getting into the corners, going deep under the bed, rolling up the rugs, dumping out the basket of potatoes and looking behind the dresser. Lighting the candle, searching, sweeping. Turning all the things upside down and doing nothing else until that coin is found.

Would I do that for $50? For $100 even? Personally, I would probably give it up for lost and get on with my life.

But that is not what love demands. Love makes us do seemingly crazy things. Love demands the house be turned inside out.

“God will turn the whole of creation upside down to find us.”

My pastor said that this morning and it cut deep. And I thought, “God will turn my life inside out to get all the parts of me he wants.”

My life right now feels a little inside out. I was offered a job in New Hampshire and it started almost immediately and things started shifting. I have to remember to breathe and to trust and to lean hard into the love of God. The perfect love that casts out fear. (I John 4:18) I have checked my heart often to be sure it is free of ambition and expectations and all the “supposed tos” of the past. (You know the ones that begin “My life wasn’t supposed to be this way…”) None of that matters in the end. What matters is finding myself in the love of God after all the being turned inside out and upside down is over. Where will I land? Will I be buried so deeply in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, tucked there behind the thorns, guarded by the flame, and in the triumph of the Cross?

He really does love me. And because he really does love me he does crazy things for the love of me, like breaking through creation and being born in flesh, and turning over my life until it all belongs to him.

“All but left with no breath and awestruck. That’s wonderful
This is cause to pause to give thought to it. Selah!
Say ya’ll ever thought about that there’s never been an identical sun rise? So wonderful
Wrapped in jackets of amber and stands with universe in hand and our tears in bottles
He collects them. Lined in perfect symmetry across the shelves of the throne room
Next to the full and accurate accurate count of every electron everywhere and every follicle of hair on our head
Modern psychology would call it obsessive compulsive
But that’s only if he ain’t had the bandwidth, I call it love and it’s wonderful
Would we with ink the ocean fill and the expanse of the sky be stretched in parchment
Would we line with canvasses the walls of our hearts apartments?
All attempts to capture his image fall short and everything his light do to me is such a beautiful eulogy”

(Wonderful, by Beautiful Eulogy, ft. Propaganda)

God loves everything and everyone, it’s true. (Because God IS love. And everything that exists does so in God.) But what turns it into a great love story is when I reciprocate. Then we enter the realm of friendship. And love changes everything.

I am that little flannelgraph lamb who wants to be found by that kind-eyed flannelgraph shepherd who smiles and doesn’t chastise unjustly. I am that pesky coin that by all appearance isn’t worth too much but craves being found and whose steward calls everyone together to rejoice when found.

My life may be a little topsy-turvy. Please don’t mind the mess. A great work of redemption is the process. It will all make sense in the end. And then Jesus will invite you to rejoice with me.

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