The shrill scream caught my attention immediately. It was the kind that would turn any mother’s head…and even though I wasn’t a mom yet, I had lived enough life around little people I knew that particular kind of scream meant terror. Someone was freaking out and it sounded to be a child around five or six years old. I looked for the little one making the noise and saw her over the heads of a few people in the crowd. My guess was right…she was around five years old and was terrified.
My husband and I were about a week into our honeymoon. It was the very end of November and the air was quite chilly, even for the south. We were spending a few days in Branson, Missouri at Silver Dollar City and watched a viewing of “Noah” at the Sight and Sound theater. This particular evening, we were at Silver Dollar City walking around and admiring the Christmas light show. I remember it was freezing, but the lights, Christmas music, hot cocoa and being with my favorite person made it worth it. We were at the base of a hill in a more crowded area when we heard the infamous scream.
Even though this was pre-motherhood days for me, I was already a kid person. And the sheer panic in this little girl’s scream made my heart go out to her. She was lost. I could tell. I instantly recalled the time I got separated from my dad in a department store around that age. Moments like that aren’t easily forgotten. The dread. The feeling of my heart pounding out of my chest. The way my little legs started walking faster and faster while my eyes searched for a familiar face. I could feel all of those emotions as I heard this little girl’s cries and screams. She called out for her dad.
We continued walking toward the girl as a few folks gathered around her trying to calm her down, ask questions, and search for her parents. She tried to answer between sobs. A man with a walkie-talkie started radioing about her. Apparently, he worked there. Some kids clambered up to the top of a rock wall next to the pavement as a look out for any potential parents on the horizon. People started pulling together, trying to help this little girl.
It seemed like an eternity. The little girl, sobbing and screaming at different intervals. My husband and I watched all this unfold in a matter of five minutes… even though it felt as if it was forever. My chest tightened with pity. Poor thing. This little girl was so scared. Somehow she had lost track of her parents.
I remember how it happened to me years ago. I was with my dad looking at clothes in the store. It was the part of the store where there were racks of shirts hanging that you can walk around. The racks were taller than me, so I couldn’t see over them. I had gotten bored of whatever Dad was looking for, so I started looking around me. I wandered further and further away, unknowingly. Then I randomly decided I needed to tell my Dad something. Or maybe I needed something from him. Either way, that’s how I discovered he was gone. I was lost.
It’s interesting to think about how often this same scenario has played out in my life with God. I get sidetracked and lose my sight of Him. He doesn’t move away from me, I move away from Him. I drop His hand and wander off, sure that I can turn around at any time when I need Him. Truth is, He can always hear me. But by the time I realize my need for Him, He usually isn’t within my eye sight and I panic.
The scary part about being lost is the fear of never being found. Pastor and author David Platt wrote, “There’s really only one thing worse than being lost. What’s worse is being lost when no one is trying to find you.”
Thankfully, a good father never gives up a search for his child.
Before I noticed I lost my dad in that department store as a five-year-old, my dad already knew I had wandered off and was looking for me. Although it seemed like a never-ending, terrifying eternity, in reality it was probably all of five minutes. Being lost for five minutes can feel like a world of fear and trepidation. It can feel endless. Your life can flash before your eyes. And you wonder if your dad will ever find you.
We all want to be found. This young girl in Branson was no different
After what seemed like forever, we heard a man’s voice yelling out a girl’s name. He was running down the hill and calling out for his daughter. We all snapped to attention. Almost immediately, the little girl jumped up, recognizing the voice and ran into the man’s arms. There wasn’t a question in anyone’s mind: this was her daddy. She was found. The father had found his lost little girl.
The relief in the air was palpable. People clapped. The kids on the rock wall cheered. The guy with the radio was wiping away tears. I was choking up too! It felt like a Christmas miracle you’d see in the movies. The emotions and excitement we all felt for this little girl we had only met moments before was beautiful. Everyone was smiling, laughing, cheering, congratulating the reunited family. We felt a part of her story.
Just then my husband said out loud, “That must be what it’s like in heaven when a lost soul comes to Jesus.”
And just like that, I’m in tears because the parallel is flawless. It WAS a perfect picture of Jesus and each of us being redeemed.
“I tell you, in the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who don’t need repentance.” Luke 15:7 HCSB
In Luke 15 we have three parables that mirror what heaven is like when someone is “found” by Jesus. The lost sheep. The lost coin. The lost son. These stories have always stirred my heart in a special way, but they have never struck me as profoundly as they have in the last five years working in prison. These verses come to LIFE in front of me every day I’m behind razor wire and concrete walls.
“I tell you, in the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:10 HCSB
When someone is found, those who participate in the story get to be part of the rejoicing. That’s what I get to do every day in prison. Watch Jesus “find” His lost child, one at a time. I get a front row seat. I’m like the kids standing up on the rock wall cheering for the little girl. I’m like the guy with the walkie-talkie, wiping away tears. I’m filled with joy like the angels in heaven watching the Father run with open arms to welcome a daughter who has been lost for what seems to be forever.
The hero of the story isn’t the kids on the wall, the man with the radio, or even the little girl screaming for her daddy. The Hero of the story is always the Daddy. The Abba Father. The One Who never stops searching for His wandering child. The Father Who is always waiting with open arms to comfort His little girl when she’s been stuck for far too long. He is the Hero for forgiving. For healing. For saving.
So today…If you’re wondering if He’s looking for you, friend. He is. He has never stopped. Turn and call His name. He is coming down the hill right now to meet you.
And if you’re wanting to see Daddy and child reunions, stand on the wall and get ready to party. Don’t let the angels out shout you. Lost and found kids are something to cheer about.