Imagine going to the store and buying a box of 100 crayons in preparation for your children going back to school. You bring your shopping home, you sling your bag of goods onto the table, and you take out the box of crayons. You open up the box of crayons… and there are only 99 of them.
One has gone missing.
You were sure that they were all there when you bought them. The crayons didn’t jiggle in the box as you took it up to the cash register, indicating, again, that they were all there.
But, now on the second row there is a spot where one used to be, but is no longer.
That little empty space just looks up and you and taunts you.
You don’t even know what color it is that’s missing.
What do you do? Do you tear the back of your car out to search for it? Do you retrace your steps? Go back to the store to look in another box to see what color it is that’s missing? Do you buy another box?
Seriously, don’t you just deal with it? Do you even give it a second thought? If your house is anything like mine another 12 crayons will go missing before sun up tomorrow.
But, what if it was your favorite color? What if you bought the box of crayons just so that you could have that wonderful Burnt Siena in your collection? What if it was your child’s favorite color, and upon realizing that it’s missing your child breaks down into uncontrollable sobbing.
NOW don’t you go and look in the back seat of the car? Now don’t you consider retracing your steps, or going back to the store to get another box?
Because all of a sudden that one little crayon isn’t just one more crayon out of another 99. Now that crayon is special. It has worth all on it’s own. And, it’s that worth-factor which changes the rest of your day.
After college I worked for a wilderness school where we had about 100 boys living in the woods 365 days a year. Each night before we went to bed and each morning as we awoke we made sure that everyone was accounted for. We were in the middle of the woods after all.
If one of the boys came up missing, we didn’t go back to bed comfortable that we had 99% of the school accounted for. That was a child we were talking about. A child with parents, a child with a future – a child with worth.
When a child would turn up missing we’d turn the place upside down and call in reinforcements until the child was found.
When the shepherd sees the one sheep missing, there is no time for comfort in knowing that MOST of the sheep are there. The shepherd jumps into action. Because the shepherd places infinite value on that sheep.
And when Jesus loses us he comes to find us because we are worth that much to him.
In a version of the story of Jesus that didn’t make the Bible (from the Gospel of Thomas) the shepherd goes out to find the one sheep because it was ‘large.’ That author felt the need to add extra value to the lost sheep because without that little detail the story was just ridiculous.
It was just a sheep. Just a crayon. Who even knew what color it was?
Jesus. That’s who.
The little parables of the lost from the Gospel of Luke are icons of God’s love for us. They are there to demonstrate the breadth, length, height, and depth of God’s love for each of us. They tell us that we are all precious, and we are all worthy of God going to ridiculous means to bring us home when we are lost.
There are other stories in the Gospels which focus on our need to return to God (like the Prodigal Son). But, here, just bathe in the wonderful peace that comes with being God’s favorite color.
Because we all are.