The brilliant weather of the last few Saturdays encouraged me to restart my bicycling. On this delicious Saturday morning I aimed for a quick trip along the Fairfax Parkway, a 10-mile glide from Herndon Station to Fair Lakes mall and then back. I thought to buy some small items at the mall. So I clipped on one of my bike’s rear bags. I have a pair of these red bags, shown in this photo from an autumn ride.
The one hour ride to the mall was lovely. The robins, cardinals, and mockingbirds were singing their little hearts out. The dogwoods were brilliant in the morning light. At Target, I bought balloons for the kid’s class and began the return. Arriving back at my car, I hopped off, and found this: The bike bag had vanished.
In about 20 seconds I exercised the complete sequence of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
You see, the old jeans I was wearing had holes in the pockets. So I put my keys in the bike bag. On most bike trips that would be just a car key in the bag. But no, for this short romp I put the whole ring in the bag. After my purchases, I threw my wallet in the bag too. And my phone.
Retracing my route, I swung by the police station next to the trail. No one had turned in the bag. They gave me the number for the Fairfax police.
The sunny scene in which I previously basked, I now grimly scanned for my red bike bag. I tried to recall any bumps that might have tossed the bag. I speculated on what a finder might do with the bag. Turn it in? Where? Use my wallet info to call my cell phone? Call my office phone? Email me? If I did not myself discover the bag, could I find my way to Paul’s, Dwaine’s, or Bill’s places in Herndon? Ugh, I'd have no fun replacing my office keys, cancelling my bank cards, visiting the DMV for a new drivers license, and not driving until then.
In the Surge kid’s class, I already planned to soon take up the parables of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost Son, all in Luke chapter 15. If I ever saw McLean and Falls Church again, I had an illustration for those stories. It was no comfort to me that the repeated word “lost” in those stories for the first hearers carried only a little of the idea of “misplaced”. To them, it usually meant “destroyed”, “killed”, or “gone forever”. When Jesus’ guys are in a storm in a boat, they use this word in yelling for help. “Master, we are lost!” They are not looking for directions. They are in panic: “Master! We're all gonna drown!” In the Luke 15 story of the prodigal son, the father does not drawl, “Oh, you’re back?”. Rather, the father exclaims excitedly, “My son was dead, but now he is alive again! He was lost, but now he is found!” In "seeking the lost", we need not so much a GPS as a defibrillator.
The Fair Lakes Shopping Center was within sight. I had biked about 30 miles. And there, on a post by the trail, with cars constantly zooming by, was my red bike bag!
“Hot dog!” I shouted.
This is not an exclamation I recall previously using. I wonder where it came from. A churchy, “Hallelujah!” or “Thank you Jesus!” were only grateful followups as my brain reengaged. Examination found everything present except for a carabiner clip that must have worn out. Whoever put my red bike bag on that post, thank you!
The lost items in the three stories are not special. There exist ninety-nine other sheep, probably other coins, and another son. Those hearing the stories already demonstrated an apathetic tendency to write off wanderers: Cost of doing business. Que sera, sera. Kids these days. But the shepherd, the woman, and the father value the lost items highly, even sacrificially.
The three stories about lost things in Luke 15 are not about anxiety. Rather, Jesus underscores the seeker's love, the seeker's dedication. Jesus spotlights the joy of finding! “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.“ “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” “But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” God our Father knows exactly where we are, no Google Maps required. God and heaven rejoice at restoration! Woohoo! Party! Sometimes God's people participate with Him, and leave comfort and seek the missing. Sometimes they shed light on the situation. Sometimes they must wait in hope for the missing person to come to his senses. I think Jesus was recommending, "You want joy? Bring back the lost!"
My fourth pass over that stretch of road was the happiest of the day. How was it the birds were again singing in the afternoon? Finding the lost is a joy I understand a little better.
Do you have any lost and found stories?