Have you ever lost something so dear to you it could never be replaced? A red sweater that belonged to my grandma was lost years ago, and I have not given up looking for it, even after all that time. Beloved, that's exactly how Jesus is in his relentless pursuit of you!
A Lost Treasure
I’ll never forget the realization that I had lost a treasured sweater which had once belonged to my grandma. The story of that rag-tag garment reminds us of a love that never stops looking for us. Enjoy!
A Tale of Two Sisters
My maternal grandma, whom we called “He,” flew away to be with Jesus eleven years ago today. Michelle (my sister) and I were assigned the task of going to her apartment to select an outfit from her closet in which to bury her.
That apartment had only been her home for a few short months, as we had moved her from her home of more than 30 years so Mom, Chelle, and I could take care of her.
So, anyway, as Chelle and I were searching her closet, we saw the two cardigans she wore most frequently. One was black, the other red. We each took a sweater from its hanger and wrapped ourselves in them. They smelled of He.
I chose the red one.
Now, understand, there was nothing fancy at all about either of those sweaters. Our He was a woman of meager means. But each of the garments was absolutely PRICELESS!
Chelle and I both wore those cardigans almost all the time! We talked on so many occasions of how we felt our grandma’s arms around us when we had them on.
Missing in Action
I wore my red sweater to work, to church, around the house, on the porch, on walks, and sometimes even to bed. Until one day, I realized I had not seen that sweater in a while.
I looked for it in all the usual places it might have been, but to no avail. I backtracked and wracked my brain to think of when and where I had last seen it. Nothing.
My last solid memory of wearing that treasured garment was on the day the nurses received fleece jackets from our employer to celebrate a recently earned designation. I dug through every lost and found I could find, but the sweater remained lost.
Then one day, I noticed our unit clerk wearing a red cardigan which looked much like my missing one. Would y’all believe I shook her down about it? Poor Margie! I literally plotted all day about how to ask for my sweater back!
Of course it wasn’t mine! How embarrassing! But I never stopped looking.
You might wonder why I was so persistent in searching for a rag-tag, old sweater when I had a whole closet full of great clothes and could just buy another cardigan.
The answer is simple. There was only one “He sweater,” and it was irreplaceable. So, I looked. Much like the shepherd in the parable of the lost sheep.
I love how Jesus spoke in parables. I don’t know how many times I have heard this particular story (see Matthew 18:10-14) in my lifetime, but only recently have I come to understand its depth and how it applies to me. And to you.
Let’s unpack this parable a little.
Shepherds in Jesus’ day kept flocks of 100 sheep. The shepherd invested time into getting to know his sheep, and the sheep recognized the shepherd’s voice.
The sheep were precious to the shepherd and even the loss of one sheep was significant to the shepherd. So significant that if one sheep strayed from the flock, the shepherd would leave the ninety-nine others to go and find the one.
And then, if the shepherd finds the lost sheep, he rejoices!
We are the sheep, of course, and Jesus the Shepherd.
Or in my story about the cardigan, we are that tattered, red sweater. To anyone else, we may not be worth much, but to God, we are worth the ceaseless search.
The Shepherd’s Love
I wish this story ended with me saying, “Just as the shepherd found his one lost sheep, I found my old red sweater!” But it doesn’t.
Although I have resolved that I will most likely never see that sweater again, I have not ceased my hunt for the perfect substitute. In fact, I currently own five red cardigans in varying styles and will most likely not stop there.
I’m not obsessed. At least I don’t think I am, anyway. And I realize I can never replace that treasured cardigan misplaced so long ago. But every time I slip my arms into the sleeves of one of those red sweaters, I remember the woman who wrapped herself in her family and loved us all so well.
And now, with my new perspective, I am reminded of the reckless love of a Shepherd who will leave the ninety-nine and fight till I’m found.
How about you, friend? You, too, may be a rag-tag, tattered, often wandering sheep, but your Shepherd is not willing that you should remain lost.