Sid is Missing!
The title on the handmade poster attached to the lamp-post caught my attention, MISSING. It went on to show a picture of Sid who had disappeared a few days before. Turns out Sid is a black cocker spaniel. How much more poignant to discover a few weeks later that the poster had been replaced by one saying STILL MISSING.
Pet lovers will understand the anguish and sense of loss that Sid's disappearance will have brought and his owners' hope fading as the days passed without a sighting of him. No wonder that they were prepared to pay out a reward. That reminds me of the gent who put an advert in his local newspaper ”Missing – wife and dog. Reward for return of dog.”
Of course it is not just pets that go missing; humans do too. For some it will be because they have a breakdown, for others because they can no longer cope with their life and need a fresh start and yet others where the reason is never known. As well as features in some newspapers appealing for information about missing relatives, in some places pictures of missing persons appear on milk bottles or other cartons.
Sadly some people need to flee from abusive relationships and so do not miss their past life. The song Goodbye Earl by the Country singers “The Dixie Chicks” talks about one such abusive husband “who was a missing person that no one missed at all.” But most people will be missed by their loved ones who may spend many hours scouring the streets looking for a trace of their relative or friend, and many more hours asking themselves why the person left without warning. What drove the person to take such a drastic step? Could they somehow have prevented it? They too may offer a reward for information that leads them to find their loved one.
Jesus told a story about a son who had had enough of life on the farm and wanted to see and experience the wider world. He did not keep in touch with his father, so to all intents he was missing. He was certainly missing from the father’s life. We can imagine that his father spent a lot of time (and perhaps money) trying to find out his son's whereabouts, so that he could keep an eye on him and help, if needed. He would have probably asked all travellers that passed the farm if they had come across his son; anyone and anything that might indicate that his son was OK and doing well. But no word ever came.
Eventually the son's money ran out and he had to take a dead-end job. Finally he came to his senses, swallowed his pride and decided to return home, fearing the welcome (if any) that he would receive.
Despite the shame the son had brought on the family, his father threw his arms around him to welcome him home. He didn't wait for the son to arrive at the front door, but ran to meet him, so pleased and relieved was he to get his son back safe and sound. Now running to greet our children (or grandchildren) may be no big deal for us, but it wasn’t the done thing for a man in Bible times. But the father didn't care about his dignity; his son was home, that was all that mattered! As far as the father was concerned, his son had been dead, but was now alive; he had been lost, but was now found.
This is one of Jesus' most famous parables, a parable being a story with a moral lesson. It sits alongside other parables about a lost sheep and a lost coin, all of which are designed to assure us that God welcomes those who are lost. Now although the son chose to take himself away from his father's love, a coin cannot choose to get lost and a sheep doesn't set out to get lost. So we understand that there are many reasons why people get lost or go missing. But the simple reminder from these parables is that however it happens, there is always a way back. Even better is the assurance that God will welcome us with open arms.
Why not read the full story for yourself in Luke Chapter 15 verses 11 to 32?
And if you are missing from someone's life, is it time to tell them that you are OK?