Today is going to be one of those days I will never forget.
It started more than 10 hours ago, but my heart is still racing. I think my chest hurts a little, no joke.
I take my boys to school every morning, so there’s always that last minute hustle to grab bags, sign journals to make sure lunches are packed. Today was like any other day of the thousand days in our household.
Once again, on the way out the door my youngest son said he’d forgotten to make his lunch for school. So, his plan was to run to the garage and pick up a snack pack out of our second refrigerator.
He asked me, “Dad, can you pick me up around back.”
I huffed a little because he was not prepared, as usual, but said, “Yes, I’ll meet you back there in a minute.”
So, Noah and I piled into the truck in front of the house and made our way around back where we idled and waited for Nathan to emerge. After several minutes, I sent his brother to go find him. He came back out and said Nathan wasn’t in there.
By the time I put the truck in park and ran in the back door, mom was running out alarmed by Noah looking for his brother.
She already had tears in her eyes, Nathan was not where he was supposed to be and had been missing for about 10 minutes.
I can’t convey the feeling we experienced for the next few minutes as we realized there was absolutely no where he could’ve gone, we had looked everywhere he could possibly be, and there was only one conclusion… our little boy was just gone.
We began running up and down the street, yelling his name, my car parked half on a major street and half in the valley, I didn’t care.
After a few futile frantic minutes I yelled for Kathy to run inside and call the police. I jumped in my truck and started screaming up and down the streets all around our house. Now almost 20 minutes since we’ve seen him, my mind started racing to all the absolute worst:
- What horrible person had pulled him off our curb when he was waiting for me?
- What terrible situation was he in right now?
- How could he be so far away when I had seen him just moments ago?
Begging and pleading in prayer as I roared up and down the streets, I promised God He could have whatever He wanted from me, just please show me my boy. I promised Him that Nathan would not be in trouble, I would just wrap him up as soon as I saw him.
After several passes up and down our street in my truck, I pulled up in front of the house and my teary-eyed wife came out saying “I don’t know how, but he’s at the school!”
Kathy had confirmed with the secretary that he had just walked in the door of his elementary school.
I rushed off again, needing to see him with my own eyes and feel him with my own hands. I walked past the security desk, I didn’t check in, I went straight to his classroom, and the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen was my boy… head down on his desk crying.
I pulled him out of the classroom and he tried to frantically explain to me that he had misunderstood, that he thought he was supposed to come around front where we were, that he had gotten there just as we were pulling away and he ran after us. So he kept running to school thinking we had forgotten him.
I told him to just be quiet, none of that mattered. He was safe. On my knees holding him, I’m sure almost squeezing the breath out of him, I felt his wet face pressing to my shoulder.
I cried too, a lot.
Nothing mattered, not that he didn’t listen, not that he didn’t use common sense, not that the entire household was near cardiac arrest and the police department was on hold, none of that mattered.
He was safe, he was found, that’s all that mattered.
Just a few minutes later, I had dropped his older brother off at his school and was sitting in the quietness of my truck. I had only been awake for an hour, but I was as exhausted as if I have been up nonstop for a week. I was incredibly grateful, full of joy, and yet was just sitting there in the quietness crying.
It was inexplicable.
Maybe I’m too religious, or too Baptist at the very least, but all I could think of was one line from a song… “I once was lost, but now I’m found.”
Is this really how God feels for us?
Is He terrified of the tragedy of our circumstances?
Does He feel hopeless standing at the edges of our poor decisions waiting for us to come home?
Does He live in this painful, chaotic, exhausting limbo created by our wandering?
I don’t begin to pretend I know the mind or the heart of the Lord, but I do know He calls Himself a Father.
And, I do know that when our children are lost, if only for 20 minutes before school, it is a pain and a feeling that I can only describe as unbearable.
I am not nearly enough of a theologian to understand how God is never moved and never shaken, yet He is broken over the lostness of His children.
Thank You my heavenly Father for continuing to search for me. Thank You for running after me, shamelessly. Thank You that you love me like I can’t even understand.
If you are far from God, if you are wandering, if you are lost… call out to Him, He is a Father who desperately wants you home. He has never ceased looking, He has never given up, He wants you.
God will not respond to your brokenness with punishment and chastising. But, with the return of the prodigal, the Father will run to you and wrap you up. He’ll place a ring on your finger and welcome you home. Because the Father isn’t interested in being right, He’s interested in making you righteous.
He does not have a scolding in store for you, and he does not have an “I told you so” lined up. He simply wants to declare, “This child that once was dead is now alive!”
What He has for you is amazing grace… How sweet the sound.