If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray? ~ Mt 18:12
What if you are that stray lamb? Perhaps you have gradually drifted off from the flock of your friends, family and faith community a few paces at a time, not noticing how far away you’ve gotten. Or, in keeping with an age that worships individualism and autonomy, you may have intentionally and stubbornly set out on your own, claiming your right to determine the course of your life. However it happens, at some point, you will realize that you have no idea where you are, and that there are a lot of unfriendly beasts out there in the world.
How can you find your way back? The short answer is: you cannot. The longer answer is: you cannot, and you need not. Instead of collapsing in despair or yielding to panic, you need only stop and collect yourself, and call out to the Shepherd who loves you and knows your markings. In the midst of the confusion and isolation we experience during those times in our lives when we lose our way, it can be hard to wait patiently for the God whom American poet John Berryman (using the Hebrew term) calls the “Adonai of rescue.”
What if God doesn’t notice we’re gone? What if God doesn’t come when we cry out? What if God has forgotten us? If we stop, call to him, and await his coming instead of plowing forward on a misbegotten path, we will hear the voice of Jesus say, as the beautiful hymn has it, “Come unto me and rest; lay down thy weary head, lay down thy head upon my breast.”
Lord God, Steadfast shepherd of your flock, Grant that, when I am lost and alone, I may wait with patient trust for you to find me. Amen.