“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’ Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:8-10
Last week, I found a lost treasure. After years of searching. After pleading in prayer. After giving up. Here’s the story:
Awhile back, we closed a bank deposit box. Not much was in it, nothing of any enormous value. We tossed the items in a grocery bag and brought them home. Among them was a purple heart-shaped box, about the size of a cookie. Its velour finish was almost worn off, but inside its still-soft velvet and satin interior was a Victorian brooch made of amethyst, seed pearls, and gold.
The pin wasn’t hugely valuable. It had great sentimental attachment, though, for my husband because it was the only thing handed down to him from his grandmother, Ella Mae Lohrfink Williams. Mark never knew his dad’s mom but heard over the years that she was kind and loving. If you scroll down to the photo below, you’ll see Ella Mae’s sweet smile…unusual to find in a circa-1900 photograph.
Ella Mae was born in 1879 to a well-to-do Baltimore family. She married an educated-but-impoverished Baptist pastor, Walter Wyatt Williams, and moved to rural Kentucky and West Virginia where he pastored several churches over the years. Together, they raised 10 children, most of the time with barely a nickel to scrape by. The brooch must have been a family gift, something she treasured and guarded her entire life.
At any rate, the gem case somehow disappeared from the bag we brought home from the bank. I was heartsick, feeling especially guilty because this was Mark’s family heirloom. After hours of searching closets, desks, drawers, boxes, chests, and every possible nook and cranny in our house, we decided that it had fallen out somewhere while bringing it home or had been thrown away.
But because it was possible that I had tucked it away somewhere, I held onto a small glimmer of hope. I prayed about it…a lot…over two years. Finally, I gave up. I left it before God as a “fleece” prayer, trusting Him to find the pin for me. If it was in my house, He had the power to reveal it.
You know the story from the Bible, about how Gideon asked God for a sign, laying out a sheep skin twice, asking God to make it wet in dry weather and dry in dewy weather (Judges 6). Well, this was my “Gideon fleece” before God, asking Him very audaciously to help me find this pin—as a sign that He was powerful enough to hear and answer my really big prayers as well.
Then, a few days ago, I was talking on the phone with my friend Rebecca Henderson who lamented not knowing exactly where some family documents were in her house. I sympathized, told her I was missing a brooch, and spontaneously offered up a sentence prayer to God, asking Him to help Rebecca find her papers and help me find my brooch. As if driven by an unseen force, I stood up, walked two feet away, opened a drawer I had checked twice before, and saw it. The missing case.
I started screaming. Rebecca thought I was having a heart attack. I finally gasped out, “I found it!! The missing brooch!!” I felt exactly like the woman in Scripture who had found her missing coin…she was so excited, she called her friends and neighbors together to tell them the news. I did the same thing by text message!
I still have absolutely no memory of putting it in this particular drawer. (Unfortunately, there are blank spots in my brain where you could store a Boeing 747.) I had obviously put the heirloom in one of my “safekeeping” places, and the darkness of its case obscured it. But God knew it was there…and in His good timing, He took me right back to it. A decade could have gone by before I ever looked in that drawer again.
Jesus told the story of the woman and her coin in a trio of parables about lost things—between “the lost sheep,” where the shepherd left the 99 others to go look for it, and “the lost brothers,” otherwise known as the parable of the prodigal son. Jesus led His listeners—a mixed bag of “sinners” and the pious Pharisees—through a progressive description of God’s pursuit of us, seeking and saving that which is lost. The sheep, the coin, and the brothers could not “find” themselves. They were found by the relentless, sacrificial efforts of the shepherd, woman, and ultimately, the loving father.
Brothers and sisters in Christ—God is truly the God of the “very big” as well as the “very insignificant.” He has His own timetable for our lives, and we often have to wait before seeing His hand at work. I have seen Him answer both quickly and after 40 years, sometimes quietly and sometimes in nothing short of true miracles. I’m still waiting on other “big prayers” and may never see the outcome in this life. But this sweet little answer last week was so comforting. He hears us, friends.
When you are beset by doubts, think back along the milestones of your life. Can you see His hand leading you? Can you see where He has placed people in your life to encourage you or help take you into a new, fruitful direction? Has He sought and found you as one of His lost sheep?
No one is too far away, too lost, too obscured, too abandoned for God to find. C.S. Lewis spoke of Him as the “hound of heaven,” always in pursuit of us, always faithful to hold us firmly in His grasp as His beloved children.
Rest in that comfort this week. Never cease to pray for His goodness and mercy. Bring even your smallest of problems to Him, because He cares about what’s on your heart. Trust in His faithfulness. May He bring you answers that are “exceedingly abundantly” above all that you ask or think!
Heavenly and loving Father, how grateful we are that we can come before You with all of our concerns. Thank You for hearing our requests, no matter how big or small. You are the faithful One who continues to walk with us in this journey. Remind us daily of Your goodness to us, and may we find renewed trust in following You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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