Lost: 3-year old boy, blonde, fair, last seen wearing a green "Daddy's Helper" t-shirt and khaki shorts near lifeguard tower 7 at Huntington Beach on Saturday evening... an unknown number of minutes before one of the grownups asks, "Where's M?"
A period of time passes, relatively short in minutes but VERY long on worry.
Found: Above 3-year old, taking a relaxing walk on the beach. He is 100% unconcerned, and is definitely not looking for any of the more than 10 people who are looking for him, including the lifeguards. He's somewhat uncooperative when his rescuer insists that he come back to the fire pit where the rest of the group will eventually return to be thankful he's been found. Upon reuniting with his very worried mommy, M receives a new name: "DON'TYOUEVERDOTHATAGAIN!!!!!"
Our extended family was enjoying a family reunion at the beach, partly because M's family has joined us all the way from Wisconsin for their summer vacation.
I'm not a mom, and I won't pretend I understand exactly what my cousin and his wife were feeling and thinking in those minutes where we were looking for their son. M has a great mommy, by the way, only one bit of evidence of that being the obvious happiness and relief when she had her little boy in her arms again. Watching her hug him like she would never let go, I couldn't help but think of a loving God who warmly welcomes each of his lost children when they come to Him.
This morning I went to church, where as if by divine orchestration, the sermon was about the parable of the prodigal son. Honestly, I don't remember very much of the teaching. I just kept thinking about how grateful I am that this real lost and found story ended well. In my mind, I couldn't help picturing the image of M and his mommy in that moment when she raced across the beach to her son, wrapped him in her arms, and wept in gratitude and relief that he was not lost after all... but found.
Someday, I hope M's mommy can tell this story and smile. I smile already because I know I will never forget this example of a parent's love for her child, and how it spoke to my heart powerfully about God's love for me. When I dwell even for a moment on how God's love for each of his children is even greater than that of an earthly parent for their child, a big lump forms in my throat, and I am moved to offer a prayer of thanksgiving. I am unable to conceive of any other sufficient response.