I thought I was being spontaneous and fun, even brave. It was just a guys’ day out. My three young sons and I went to McDonald’s for Happy Meals, and yes, the meals did make them happy. I watched, as my three-year-old twins followed their big brother, all of age six, inside a monstrous tube with all kinds of cool slides. I wished I was their size and could join the fun.
After they had searched every bit of the plastic maze, it was time to move on to something else. Foolishly I said, “Let’s go to Wal-Mart.” Now a normal trip to Wal-Mart usually involves a little bit of whining, and an impassioned plea as to why a new action figure is as essential as the air we breathe. So, I laid down the ground rules: We were going to buy a soccer ball and a movie. That’s it, nothing else. The boys nodded their heads in agreement, so we parked and went in.
[A FATHER AND HIS BOY]
We found a soccer ball with no problem. Okay, a minor skirmish, but nothing crazy. We then proceeded over to the video section to pick up a movie. We walked single file around the back of the store to avoid the crowds. Everything was going so well. We arrived at the video section to pick out our movie, and then it happened — I was missing a kid.
Oh, it’s no big deal, I thought. He’s probably staring at one of the TVs in the aisle. So we backtracked to pick him up. He wasn’t there. We went around the corner, he wasn’t there either.
I started calling out his name, no answer.
I tried to remain calm on the outside, but inside, I was freaking out! All the worst-case scenarios bubbled up to the surface of my mind. I told my oldest son that we needed to pray and ask for God to help us.
Losing a kid is every parent’s worst nightmare. Most of the time it hits home, because each one of us was lost at some point when we were a kid, even if it was just for a moment. We remember how awful that felt, and how frightening it was, to be left alone with no idea of what to do next. A friendly place can suddenly become very scary.
As we headed up the main aisle, my son saw his brother dart across. We quickly caught up with him. I picked him up and held him close. He was bawling on the outside, and I was bawling on the inside. We left the store immediately.
[A WOMAN AND HER COIN]
In Luke 15:8-10, Jesus tells a story about a woman who lost a coin, and tore the house apart trying to find it. I was about ready to tear up Wal-Mart and whatever else was needed to find my son. My son is much more valuable than a coin; God thinks you are too.
As I held my son close, God whispered in my ear and reminded me that the way I felt about my lost son — that gut-wrenching, whatever-it-takes love — is the same way He feels about me too. That’s why He sent His Son. That’s why He pursues us so relentlessly. That’s why His love is so amazing.
I’m glad for that, because I have a tendency to wander away. In fact, there are many times when I put my faith on automatic, thinking I’m following God. I charge ahead to do something I know I should do, only to realize that He took a turn a few miles back, and I never even noticed. Maybe it was the time when I threw my beliefs in someone’s face, when God just wanted to use me to be a listening ear. Or the time I served my family for the recognition they would give me, when God just wanted me to be a servant.
I want to be a follower of His, but too many times I end up lost, just like my son.
However, God loves me enough to pursue me. He loves you that way too. Let Him find you, and you can experience that love firsthand. Let Him hold you close, and He will never let you go.[Tim Walker is the editor of YouthWalk magazine and a writer who lives in Woodstock, Georgia. He has vowed never to go anywhere again with his children.]
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