I will search for the lost bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak… Ezekiel 34:16
Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin… Luke 15:8-9
On a busy freeway, in 2011, we trekked to watch the Little League World Series Western Regional playoff games in San Bernadino. Making the most of our time, I phoned my Grandma to catch up. As most of our conversations go, we covered the latest happenings in each other’s lives then smoothly transitioned to a walk down memory lane. My Grandma loves to tell stories of her past and then reminisce on the antics she lived through. Our conversations often lead to the lost. We’ve lost so many family members to death and divorce, it grieves my sweet grandma. She shares stories of those who are missed and for those who are still alive, she poses questions, “I wonder where they are?” She wonders what happened and tells me she never wanted the distance which has grown into a crevasse of separation.
When I was little my mom and her brothers had kids at roughly the same time. I was one of the 7.
We had a small group of cousins. My dad’s brother didn’t have any kids, so this was it for cousins my age. I have a sense of fondness of time spent with this group. Somewhere in my brain the memories are stored, but I have no specific memories because half of these kids slipped out of my life before I was five years old. My mom told me one of my aunts was my caregiver so I spent a great deal of time with these kids, so when they disappeared I felt a sense of loss.
I prayed for the six and their parents every night of my childhood. My prayers always began, “Dear Lord, Bless Uncle D, Aunt P, Uncle, Aunt, Aunt… then I’d go through all the kids.”
A whole childhood. Every Night. Praying.
I didn’t know that I was praying for restoration of our family or praying that they’d somehow walk back into my life. I just prayed that they’d be okay and that one day maybe we’d meet again.
As the years went by the accusations as to whose fault all this was lurked in the background of life. Assigning blame and taking sides does nothing to heal. The blame game does little to foster restoration. There’s not enough time in this life to argue whose fault it was. We only have time to make tomorrow better than today or yesterday.
So I began trying to build bridges. I’d reach out when I could trying to locate or foster some sort of relationship. Some times it worked, some times it didn’t. But I tried.
On the drive to San Bernadino, hearing my Grandma’s voice lament the loss of some of my cousins tugged at my heartstrings. I decided then to make and effort to find some we hadn’t seen for nearly 40 years. I wanted to provide some peace for my Grandma and I wanted to find my long losts.
Like many these days, I turned to Facebook and low and behold, I found them!
I was excited and nervous. I wrote letters introducing myself as their long lost. The responses I got were mixed, everything from, “Sure I’d like to meet you” to “I want nothing to do with you” to no response at all.
I was okay with whatever. I left it completely in their court. I knew I’d have to build trust to build relationship. We became Facebook friends and I think they watched me from a distance. Eventually, after about six months, we were all able to meet and it was like I had found long lost family. Oh wait, I HAD found long lost family. We laughed together and enjoyed each other’s company.
Eventually the time came where I asked them if they’d be willing to meet our Grandma and I gently broke the news to her that I found them. I asked if she’d like to meet them. She definitely did.
It broke my heart to hear my Grandma wonder and cry about those lost. I would do anything for her and I think finding the lost was my attempt to help her find peace. She no longer wonders where they are because we know. She’s met two of the three that were lost for 40 years.
Ezekiel 34:4 reads,
You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally.
I don’t want Ezekiel 34:4 to be my verse. Strengthening the weak, healing the sick, binding up the injured, searching for the lost, bringing back the strays. That’s what I hope for. I will continue to seek out the lost in our family and in the world. There’s much work to be done and only one lifetime.