Updated: Dec 5, 2022
September 11,2022 Lk 15:1-32
When we lived in Kentucky, we would take our kids to a park we called “woodpecker park” because of the sounds of the birds pecking away at the trees. One Saturday, all four of us ventured there in the afternoon. The park was crowded with a family reunion.
Jeff and I brought our kids to a bank of swings. Our kids were still small enough that they would sit in our laps while we swung. A young girl, probably about 10 or 11, was swinging next to me. As kids often do, she was soaring high into the sky so her feet looked like they were touching the clouds and then she would swing back down to earth. While all this was happening, a little girl probably 2 or 3 years old, dressed in cute jeans and a sweater buttoned all the way up, was toddling towards us. I looked around for a parent or older sibling of the child but I didn’t see one. Just then, Jeff said something to me and I turned my head to reply to him. After talking to him, I turned back around and out of the corner of my eye I saw that the little girl had wandered right behind the high flying swinger next to me. It happened so fast I couldn’t even get a word out. The girl on the swing came flying back down and hit the child so forcefully that the little girl flew backwards out of my vision. The next few moments felt like they were happening in slow motion. I got to the fallen child who was screaming and thankfully conscious. The girl on the swing promptly left the scene. Jeff ran over to help me. The child calmed down, and I rushed her over to the reunion group and gave her to her mother. It was all of about 5 minutes worth of chaos.
As Jeff and I were walking back to the swings, I looked at him and said, “Oh no, we completely forgot our kids!” We ran back and there they were, safe, standing next to each other, far from the swings.
I wonder if my kids were feeling what the herd of sheep might have felt when the shepherd took off after one sheep, or what the Pharisees felt when Jesus sat down with sinners and tax collectors. I imagine my kids were thinking, “I was enjoying the park feeling safe in Mom’s lap and then BAM! she just up and left for some child I don’t even know! What’s so special about that child?”
There is nothing special about that child, or my children except that we’re all God’s children. And as God’s children we’re all loved equally whether we are following the rules, and feeling righteous like the Pharisees, or making poor decisions like the tax collector. That uneasy feeling we have when we’ve made a bad choice is, I think, a spiritual step we have taken away from God, and the best version of ourselves. Like the shepherd, God’s love is always looking for us, whether we’re a mile away or 100 miles away,it’s just a matter of turning around and walking back to ourselves and God.
We tend to live in a scarcity mindset. If someone is doing well, then it means less for the rest of us. It reminds me of sibling rivalry and the need to compete for our parents' love and attention. It seems unfair, but it doesn’t matter how special or not special we are. God wants all of us equally: the ones making mistakes, the ones following the rules, the ones who wander off, and the ones who stick close.