Scripture Text: Luke 15: 4-6
4“Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’
As we have come to know, the wilderness is treacherous. It is tiresome and mind-draining. It often seems to lengthen time even as one makes his or her way through it. We become impatient. We want it to end. We want to shorten the time that it has its hold on us. We want to take shortcuts to get to the end, so we veer off the path, away from our course, thinking that we have it all figured out. We find ourselves lost.
It is easy in times of wilderness to think that you are alone. It is tempting to assume that you have somehow ended up there of your own doing and that you and you alone are responsible for finding your way out. We’ve all been lost before. We’ve all been in situations where we just can’t seem to find our way back. We’ve all had times whether they be physical, emotional, or even spiritual when we lose our way or we feel ourselves mired in lostness and grief. We backtrack, trying to find the pathway down which we came so that we can “start again”. But everywhere we look, the choices of where to go all look the same. It becomes overwhelming. We turn and we turn and we panic and we run through this maze of choices over and over again.
When I was young, I was told that if I was lost, I should stay where I was. (Sometimes we’re smarter when we’re children, because we know to listen.) I think intellectually we all know that we should stay on the path and keep walking and yet, as adults, we somehow think we can fix it. We can wander with panic through life with no compass and no real help. We can try this way and that way and backtrack and veer off to nowhere. We can convince ourselves that we need no help, that we can do it. We can be tempted by the shortcuts that are offered along the way. And we stay lost.
Sometimes we are the lost sheep. Sometimes the wilderness seems to consume us. Sometimes the road through it seems to lengthen with each step. But where we did get the notion that solitude meant that we were alone? This wilderness journey is not one that we travel alone. God walks with us, holds us when we need to be held, and when we become the lost sheep, the one who has wandered away, God is there too. God doesn’t “fix” our way through the wilderness or speed up our wilderness time, but we are always wilderness-found.
We just have a little bit more time of this Lenten wilderness. We know that it will get harder. We know that, like many wilderness paths, it will seem to lengthen and become more treacherous as we near the end of its hold. But we do not walk it alone. Jesus, walking to the Cross, was never alone. He was in solitude; he was in prayer; he was often deserted by those who traveled with him; he often found himself mired in lostness and grief. But God has walked this way before. God knows the way. So, God will always make sure that even though the way is hard, we are always wilderness-found. And God lays us on the Divine shoulders and rejoices.
Often when the heart is torn with sorrow, spiritually we wander like a traveler lost in a deep wood. We grow frightened, lose all sense of direction, batter ourselves against trees and rocks in our attempt to find a path. All the while there is a path–a path of Faith–that leads straight out of the dense tangle of our difficulties into the open road we are seeking. (Helen Keller)
Grace and Peace,