If you were to imagine your life as whole and complete what would that look like and mean for you today? What qualities or characteristics would describe that kind of life? And what keeps that from happening? What is missing or has been lost? What would it take for you to live a bit more wholeheartedly today?
I think we all want wholeness and completeness in our lives. I believe that’s also God’s desire for us. It’s what Jesus was getting at when he said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
The longing and desire for wholeness and completeness are revealed in today’s gospel (Luke 15:1-10) by the shepherd who goes after the one lost sheep until he finds it, and by the woman who searches carefully until she finds the one lost coin.
We often make the lost sheep and lost coin the focus of today’s gospel. We even call today’s gospel the parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the lost coin. But what if we thought of them as parables of wholeness? And what if the repentance that brings joy to heaven and the angels of God is about finding and recovering the lost parts of ourselves? Isn’t that really what happens to the shepherd and the woman?
Originally, the shepherd had one hundred sheep and the woman had ten coins Those numbers are more about wholeness and completeness than quantities. The lives of the shepherd and the women were whole and complete until something was lost; a sheep, a coin. But it’s not just any sheep or coin. It’s this particular sheep and this particular coin. They are not commodities to be replaced or written off but unique aspects essential to a life of wholeness and completeness for the shepherd and the woman.
Without that particular sheep and that particular coin their lives are now incomplete, diminished, and less than whole. Something is missing and they know it. And who among us doesn’t know what that is like?
I wonder what’s missing in your life today. What parts of yourself have been lost? What are you searching for? And what would help you live more fully alive?
When have you had a restless longing, a sense that there was something missing, something more to your life? And what was behind that? Have you ever looked in the mirror and wondered where the joy, enthusiasm, vitality of your life went?
Has something been lost in a friendship, your marriage or parenting, your work? When have you wanted to get your life or a relationship turned around? That’s a longing for wholeness and completeness.
Sometimes we lose parts of ourselves to grief and sorrow, to the pain and wounds of life, exhaustion, or when life becomes overwhelming and confusing. The uncertainty and ambiguity of life are places we often lose pieces of ourselves. Sometimes we lose ourselves to fear, anger, jealously, wanting to be right, the judgments we make of others and ourselves, refusing to forgive.
Sometimes we lose ourselves to success, gaining approval, meeting the expectations of others. Sometimes the lost part of ourselves is faith, hope, a dream. It is so easy to lose a piece of ourselves and it can happen in a thousand different ways.
Maybe the greatest loss is a loss of connection to depth and the sense that we belong to and are a part of something larger than and beyond ourselves. When that happens we lose ourselves to the banal and superficial.
The temptation for us is to settle for a life less than whole or complete. That’s not what I want for you or myself, and it’s not what I want for this parish or our town. The woman refused to settle for a 90% life and the shepherd refused to settle for a 99% life. Let’s not settle either.
The shepherd “goes after [the lost sheep] until he finds it,” and the woman “searches carefully [for the coin] until she finds it.” Until he finds it, until she finds it. They persevere. They don’t give up or settle for a partial life. They look for their life until they find it. And they did. They found it and so will we.
That’s the promise to each of us in today’s gospel. You and I will find wholeness and completeness. Uvalde will find wholeness and completeness. Sometimes that means lighting a lamp, sweeping, and searching our own house. Other times the search takes us to the wilderness and the risky and untamed parts of life.
I don’t know how or when the finding will happen for you, me, or Uvalde, but I know it does. I’ve experienced it in my life and I’ve seen it happen in the lives of others. That finding returns us to ourselves. And yet, I also know that the searching and finding never end. It’s a journey, a process. We don’t achieve wholeness and completeness, we step into that life one step at a time.
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” (Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, ch. 64). I wonder what your and my first step will be. I wonder what we will find.
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Thank-you for this! Timely help on my retreat!