A traveler was walking through the wilderness. As he crested a rocky hill, he heard a weak, desperate bleat. Going over to a low thicket he spied a sheep hopelessly caught in the thorns. Pulling out his multi-tool, the traveler quickly cut away the thorns and freed the sheep.
“How did this happen?” the traveler asked.
“Oh,” began the hurting sheep, “I was with the flock, being led by the shepherd, the same as every day. Then I saw a rabbit over here eating some tasty looking berries. I wandered over here to have some. They were farther in the thicket than I thought, and I scratched my nose and legs. Worst of all, the berries were bitter and terrible. When I tried to leave, I realized I was stuck, and I didn’t even know which way the flock went. All I want now is to get back to the shepherd.”
“Everything will be alright,” said the traveler. “I know the way to the Shepherd.”
They continued down the road together and eventually came to a town. As they strolled down the main street, they heard the sound of loud sweeping down a side street. Turning to check it out, the traveler spied a silver coin in the dust at their feet. He stooped to pick it up and noticed that the face on it seemed to be crying.
Bemused, the traveler said, “Well, how did you get here?”
The face on the coin blinked and said, “I belong to a poor widow. I am her dearest treasure. She was counting me and the other coins when a chariot rode by at top speed and rattled the table. I fell off, and as luck would have it, I landed on my edge and rolled right under the door. Now I’m lost! I’m lost and I’ll never be found!
“Everything will be alright,” said the traveler. “Nothing can truly separate you.”
The traveler took the coin to sound of sweeping where there was a joyful reunion. After a small neighborhood celebration, the traveler invited the widow to come along with them. He promised her that where they were going, all that she had would always be enough. She gladly accepted.
They continued out of the town and out into the countryside dotted with farms. As they passed close to one farm they noticed a loud grunting of pigs. Turning to look, they saw a young man with a pail full of rotted fruit balancing on a hay bail to feed a group of excited pigs. As he swung the pail, the momentum carried him over the fence and into the pigpen, full of mud and filth.
“Do you need some help?” asked the Traveler, kindly.
“I’m beyond help,” cried the young man. “I’m beyond hope!”
“Not at all,” the Traveler reassured him. “Where we’re headed, everyone gets just what they need. It’s a place full of help, full of hope and full of love. Would you like to come with us?”
“You don’t want me. I was so selfish. I rejected my father and demanded my inheritance. I left him to go my own way. I was going to make it big, but I spent all I had trying to impress strangers, doing things I don’t even want to remember. They all left when the money ran out. Now I’m alone with no family…just pigs.”
“Sounds like what you really need is forgiveness,” offered the Traveler. “I promise you will find it where we’re headed.”
The young man climbed out of the pigpen and joined the band on their way. They traveled a long time, with the mysterious traveler telling them wonderful stories of the place they were headed. Finally, on a hill, far away, they saw an estate. As they got closer, they saw an old man running out to meet them followed by a trail of servants.
“Oh! I’ve been waiting for you all!” He cried, embracing them one by one. He had the servants place a robe on them. Finally, he embraced the muddy young man.
“Father? Father!” the youth cried, as the old man embraced him.
"All is forgiven, my dear son."
The old man wiped tears from his eyes. “We shall have a great feast! You will all be washed and dressed in fine linen. You’re part of the family, now. I have special rooms, prepared just for you. Whatever you need, just ask and it will be given!
And the sheep that wandered found a home. And the coin that was lost, was given a special place of honor. And the son that willfully rejected his father, was forgiven and reunited with his loving family.
Adapted from Luke 15
“In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:10
Whether you wandered away, distracted by the world with its charms and its worries, or got lost because of an unfortunate decision or mistake, or willfully rejected the Father and His love, remember, there is always a place for you in the Father’s house. Seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened. Your inheritance of grace, mercy and forgiveness are waiting for you.