Tears over lost and found

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When the phone rings here at the newspaper, you never know who’s on the other end and what the person will say.
That’s why we have an antacid dispenser in the break room. (Not really.)
One day last week I got a call from a woman who sounded greatly distressed; she had lost her wedding rings.
It happened several months ago when she was going through cancer treatment. She said the treatment muddled her brain, made her absent-minded and forgetful.
Back in January she was making meatloaf and didn’t want to get raw hamburger gunk in her 41-year-old ring set so she took them off, plus two other newer rings, five rings in all.
She put them in the pocket of her jeans and then later put the jeans on a little stepladder in her closet and forgot about them.
“Didn’t you notice your hands were ringless?” I asked her.
She said back then she didn’t notice anything. Days, maybe weeks later, she gathered up a bunch of stuff to donate to a local thrift store, and the jeans accidentally along with them.
When she finally noticed she wasn’t wearing her rings, she looked everywhere in her house, frantic. For weeks she cried as she tried to remember where she put them and then cried when she remembered. She was crying when she called me.
She asked if I thought she was silly, and I told her no. The rings meant something to her, something beyond mere jewelry.
Her husband had offered to buy her a new set, but she didn’t — doesn’t — want a new set. She wants the set she lost, the set she loves.
A week or so before the woman called, my pastor had talked about Jesus telling parables about the kingdom of heaven and about lost things — and found things:
A pearl merchant goes out looking for fine pearls, which in biblical times were more valuable than diamonds are today. He finds one of great value and sells everything he has to purchase it.
A man finds a treasure hidden in a field, hides it again and sells all he has to buy the field — and the treasure.
A woman has 10 silver coins, each worth about a day’s wages, and loses one. She turns her house upside down, searching carefully until she finds it.
A man has 100 sheep and one wanders off. He leaves the 99 to go after the one lost sheep. When he finds it, he joyfully puts it across his shoulders and carries it home. When he returns, he calls his friends and neighbors together to celebrate.
“Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep,” he says.
Likewise, when the woman who lost the coin finds it, she, too, calls her neighbors to celebrate.
“In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents,” Jesus said (Luke 15:10).
I’ve heard these stories that Jesus told all my life, and often that’s all there is. I hear them; I read them; I say, “Oh yeah, I remember that one,” and go on to the next.
But when the woman who lost her rings called, crying, and I talked to her long enough to get a glimpse of the extent of her grief — for that’s what it is — I thought about how God grieves over his lost creation.
Maybe he doesn’t cry or wring his hands or feel despair, but he does grieve over lost people, those whom he loves, those who either defiantly run from him or who just sort of wander away.
Lost is lost no matter how you get there.
It’s easy to think of God as a God of wrath and judgment, which is what he is. It’s even easier to overlook the fact that his wrath is based on his love for his people, and because of that love, his wrath was inflicted on his Son so his people can be spared.
Therefore, the people who are lost don’t need to fear being found. Instead, they can look forward to a party, a time of great rejoicing and celebration. The Bible says so.
I sincerely hope the woman finds her rings. I imagine she’ll cry even harder, but with tears of joy and thankfulness. What was lost has been found!
Maybe God cries those kinds of tears. I think maybe he just might.

Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927, Monday through Thursday, or via email at nkennedy@chronicleonline.com.