Luke chapter 15:4-7 “Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’
Jesus used this example of a shepherd and a lost sheep to try to help people understand how God feels about rescuing us when we’re lost. A few years ago I was lost. I knew where I was but I’d moved away from Jesus. I didn’t trust His care of me anymore. Turned out that was a pretty foolish and costly decision to make and I’ve spent the past three years working on recovery from that time.
When I was brought back, when Jesus came and found me and carried me back rejoicing, I felt terrible. I felt ashamed and stupid; worthless and useless. I knew that others, who didn’t actually know all that happened in the strange places I’d wandered through, had made judgments about me and had declared me to be a bad person. I was called names and sent abusive messages. Even when all of that died down and no one said those things to me anymore, I still felt horrible. The shame and disgrace stuck to me like tar and although I knew that I was back in the care of the good shepherd I stayed at the edges. I’ve not felt able to become fully involved in Christian community or worship again. No one has stopped me; I’ve been paralysed by my own feelings of inadequacy, and an inability to believe that the past is just that – the past.
Since I last wrote in this space God has changed some pretty huge things in my life! I’ve finally been able to let go of some big hurts and anger and unforgiveness. It’s been placed at the cross and it’s no longer in me. I’ve been brought into contact with someone I’ll call my ‘person of peace’ who has seen and heard me, and is taking on the things which I need to set down. Yesterday I had a meeting with someone in my church community. It’s a meeting I’ve been anticipating with dread for months. It was a chance for someone else to tell me that I should be on the edges and that it’s not ok for me to be part of the church. But he didn’t. He told me I was welcome. He was excited about how God is using me and will use me. He saw much more than my story of wandering.
And it didn’t really surprise me when that happened because just before I went to meet with him I read the story of the lost sheep – it was my reading for the day in the bible reading plan that I follow. And what I suddenly realised for the first time, as I read it for the hundredth time, is that the sheep is brought back on the shepherd’s shoulders. There is no mention of the sheep being placed on the ground while the shepherd gathers his friends and family to celebrate with a party. So the sheep is wherever the shepherd is. The sheep is welcome where the shepherd is welcome. The sheep is at the centre of the celebrations, not at the edge of the party.
This has been a slow and painful lesson to learn but now I fully believe it.
Whatever you do, whatever I do, when we are redeemed we are brought right back into the centre of everything. We are not supposed to hang around on the edges, hoping that eventually in time we’ll be thought ‘good enough’ to join in again. When Jesus loves you and calls you and saves you and carries you, you are where He is. He is the beginning and the end of all things. He is the Word. He is the resurrected life.
Last night having finally realised these truths, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I felt like I’d just won the best prize, or I’d been told the most exciting news. I wanted to celebrate. I wanted to tell everyone ! That wasn’t possible so instead I hung out with my family and we ate BBQ and drank raspberry lemonade. My husband asked what we were celebrating. I told him it had been a very good day.
Don’t stay at the edges. You aren’t supposed to miss the party 🙂