A Father’s Heart – Part 4 of 4

shepherd-carrying-sheep1This is part four of a four part series.  If you need to catch up, read here.
I started reading the chapter with the Parable of the Lost Sheep. Yes, clearly this is why the Holy Spirit would lead me here. I’m literally looking for my lost sheep like a crazy person. I’m going to leave my house in the dark hours of the morning just to find my little sheep. I get it, Lord. I get it.

“Keep reading, Leah,” the Holy Spirit encouraged.

The next part of the chapter talks about the woman who loses a coin, a coin that was most likely a family heirloom and precious to her, and who turns her house upside down until she finds it and throws a party to celebrate. Yes, yes! This is clearly me: turning my house inside out to find my precious family heirloom, and boy was I going to throw a party when I brought home Baa Baa from Home Depot. I would return as the champion met with cheers from my family and the eternal love of my daughter.   I get it, Lord. I get it.

“Keep reading, Leah.”
And that’s when I came upon one of the most familiar stories in the Bible, the Parable of the Lost Son. I could almost hear my dad’s voice retelling the story, as it was one of his favorite passages. And that’s when the Holy Spirit graciously stopped me and did one of those classic moments where He shines a mirror onto the state of your heart, only the reflection comes back far different than you thought.

rembrant-prodigal-son-detailI haven’t been acting like the shepherd looking for the sheep.

I haven’t been acting like the woman looking for the coin.
I haven’t been acting like the Father looking for His Son.

I haven’t even been acting like the younger brother, pursuing his own desires at the sake of everyone else.

I was the older brother.

Crap.

You see, as I mentioned before, the previous weeks had been really hectic, draining, and altogether distracting. Nothing big and tragic but a lot of small to medium sized nuisances that had added up to a self-centered, “Why me?” mentality that left me comparing myself to others and feeling bitter towards what I had been given.

“Why does this person get to live by their family and I have to live far away from mine?”

“Why does that person get to live in a bigger house with a garage, heck, with a driveway, and I get a smaller home that floods?”

“Hey God, are you paying attention to all that we’re sacrificing here to obey and serve you? Do you see all this? Aren’t we great? Don’t I deserve more than this? DON’T I AT LEAST DESERVE TO FIND MY BLASTED SHEEP!?!”

Nice, Leah. Real nice. Heart of a champion right there. I was ashamed.

My Father’s correction was both gentle and kind.

“Leah, you’ve lost your mind these last five days looking for this little stuffed sheep. You’ve been irrational.   You can’t quit thinking about her day and night, unable to sleep until you find her. But when was the last time you lost sleep praying for one of my lost sheep? When was the last time you quit looking at the things you don’t have on your street and started looking at the people I have given to you there? Will you help me find My Baa Baa and bring her home?”

“I’m sorry, Father. I’m so, so sorry.”

The words were inadequate, but it was all I could say. My remorse was genuine, and I wanted to change. I thought of the legacy of my own father, and his relentless passion for the One. I so desired to carry on that legacy.

“This time, I really do get it, Father. I really do. Show me your Baa Baas. I want to join you in finding them and bringing them home.”

1bIt was almost 6:00 AM. Time for me to go to Home Depot. I excitedly walked up to the front desk and expectantly waited for Baa Baa to be given to me.

They didn’t have her. No one had turned her in.

There must be some mistake. She has to be here. She just has to. I frantically began to retrace my steps from days before, looking behind cash registers, corners of the bathroom, all the shopping carts . . . she just has to be here!

But she wasn’t. She wasn’t there that day. Or the next. Or the next. And I was so sad. I had resolved myself to the fact that Baa Baa was gone forever, yet I just couldn’t break that news to Claire. She still was praying for her every night, and every time I would think of Baa Baa, I tried to remind myself to pray for one of the neighbors and people God had placed in my life at that point.

It was a Saturday night that I found myself sitting with Brad at a table full of strangers at a wedding that he performed, legitimately sobbing into my gazpacho soup. Brad started talking about Baa Baa being gone and I just couldn’t help myself. My heart was broken about my little sheep. (Brad was once again mystified by the pregnancy hormones and why his quasi-rational wife was sobbing at a wedding reception about her daughter’s stuffed animal. He was very supportive though. Never belittled me or my wild hormones. What a guy.)

IMG_7956At that very moment, my mom sent me a text. She came in from Pittsburgh to watch the kids during the wedding and the picture she sent me didn’t even need words. If you’ve ever wondered what pure love and joy looks like, here it is. My little girl, reunited with her sheep. (Baa Baa was hiding far behind the TV stand. I’m pretty sure Caleb threw her back there. Why? Who knows? I’m still working on forgiving him for that.)

I again started sobbing, this time tears of joy, into my veal, which I couldn’t eat (No one should have to eat veal while they’re pregnant. It’s just too sad picturing that little baby cow. The hormones have fully taken over now.).

bigstock-Happy-family-EditThere are just no words, Father, no words to express my joy and thanks. Your heart bleeds with an irrational, all-consuming love for the souls of Your children, and yet you still take the time to show your infinite, undeserving love for me in such a personal, simple, and beautiful way. Thank you.

I wanted to call my dad at that moment and jump around with irrational joy at my Luke 15 moment. I found my sheep, but more importantly, I found my Father’s heart. Both of theirs. It all comes back to the Father’s heart.