There is nothing more terrifying than realizing your child is missing. You go to look and he’s gone. You look high and low and that panic starts to set in. You call; you search; you try to hold back the tears. Still, he’s nowhere in sight. You begin to pray, “Please Lord, please let him be ok! Please let me find him. Please, I will never forgive myself if something has happened to him! He’s so little Lord!”
As much as there is no greater fear when we lose that child, there is no greater joy than when we find him! We hold him close and thank God that he is ok and that he is safe in our arms. When we are finally settled we allow ourselves to think of the things that “could” have happened and we pray a prayer of thanksgiving that none of them did.
It took 20 years of parenting before I experienced having a child go “missing”. The problem was we didn’t know he was “missing” at all! We thought he was safe inside with his siblings watching him. I was in the bedroom cleaning when the doorbell rang and our neighbor informed us that Jake, just barely walking, had made his way outside and was playing with the lawn mower. My heart beat wildly as I went out to get him. Not only was he playing with the lawn mower but he had toddled past a very full kids’ pool that was sitting on our driveway. I picked him up and hugged him close. I thanked my neighbor and told him it was the first time I had ever “lost” one of my kids. He said, “Oh! It’s ok. It happens!” I sighed, close to crying and told him, “No, it’s not ok. So many things could have happened to him.” My heart was so happy he was ok but my mind was racing thinking of all the things that could have happened to a little one outside alone.
I often wonder if that is how God feels about us. While we are prepared for much of the “adult” world… working, paying bills, grocery shopping, getting kids to where they need to be, et cetera, most of us are still just young children, barely toddling, in the ways of the spiritual world. Does God panic like I did thinking of all the things that could happen to us while we make our way through this big world if we aren’t firmly holding His hand?
When we strike out on our own, without God holding our hand, we are like my toddler Jake. We are exposed to dangers that, without proper guidance, could seriously hurt us… physically and more importantly, spiritually. God, the ever present parent, doesn’t want that for us. He wants us to turn to Him for guidance. He wants to protect us. He feels like we do with our own children. He hurts when we hurt. He worries over us and He only wants what is good for us.
Just as our children eventually grow and learn, we do as well. God allows us to both succeed and fail so that we grow in mind and spirit. He knows that success and failure, good times and bad, will help form us into the people He hopes we become. How we use the experiences can benefit us tremendously. However, if we are trying on our own we may not incorporate those lessons into our lives the way we should. We need guidance. We need a hand to hold. We need God.
God provides us His hand in various ways. He gives us Himself through the Scriptures, through the Church, through prayer, and most importantly in Holy Eucharist at Mass. But He is a wise father who knows we often need someone present that we touch, can call on the phone, or physically hold our hand. Many times He presents us with holy men and women in our lives to help guide us as well. It may be a devout priest, a wise spiritual director, or a friend who lives his/her life in a way that magnifies the Lord in all they do. He knows that we, like our toddlers, need a lot of instruction to stay on the safe path in this dangerous world.
God is such an amazing father. He is with us from the very beginning, holding our hands, guiding and protecting. Sometimes we squirm from His protection and face the dangerous world alone. I have no doubt that when we return God’s heart is so full of love and relief that all He can do is hug us close and cry over our safe return. We have a perfect role model for our own parenting. When our children wander from us, when we feel they are lost, when they are facing the world alone we only have to look at our own Father and know that He has faced the same fears that we face. He knows the worry, the distress, and the fear but He also knows the relief and the joy when we return to Him.
Thank you God for your ever-loving presence in our lives. Thank you for being a Father who loves us no matter what. Thank You for Your guidance. Thank You for welcoming us back into Your arms when we wander from their safety and protection. Keep us close to You always.