Michelle Martin


Sunday, May 1, 2016

It’s something all parents experience, at least once their kids become mobile: that moment when you look around, especially in a crowded place, and can’t see them. It’s happened to me, more than once, with all of my kids when they were small. Most recently it happened on a kindergarten field trip to the Shedd Aquarium.

Teresa was in an indoor playground area at the aquarium, working off the after-lunch wiggles. So were many of her classmates, all dressed in bright yellow school gym T-shirts. The shirts are bright and visible in a crowd, making it easy for chaperones to spot their kids, but when you have two dozen kids, climbing and sliding and playing tag, all in the same shirt? It’s not as easy to pick one out.

I sat near the only exit from the play area, figuring that no one would escape, but when it came time to move on and the kindergartners all gathered around their assigned chaperones, I had the other three in my group, but no Teresa.

She was missing for about 30 seconds. Maybe less, if I’m honest. When the other adults joined me in calling her name, she popped out of nowhere (Behind a group of kids? Under part of the climbing structure? I don’t know) and we moved on.

The Gospels tell us over and over again that God feels the same way about each and every one of us when we wander off. We have the prodigal son and parables about lost coins and lost sheep. Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd, an analogy that’s not lost on anyone trying to keep kindergartners all together and moving the same direction.

Later, when I told the story to my husband, Teresa was confused.

“I wasn’t lost,” she said. “I was right there.”

Luke’s Gospel gives us even more when it tells the story of Mary and Joseph losing track of Jesus on the way back from Jerusalem. Mary thought Jesus was with Joseph, Joseph thought he was with Mary, and neither noticed that he stayed behind in Jerusalem. It was a full day before they missed him, and it took three days of searching before they found him in the temple (Lk 2:41-52), where Mary asked him, “Son, why have you done this to us?”

Jesus essentially told Mary and Joseph that it was their own fault if they couldn’t figure out that he’d be in his Father’s house. But then, according to the Gospel, he went home with them and was obedient to them, so maybe he did have an idea of what they went through.

As kids get older, they spend more and more time out of our sight, learning and exploring on their own. But we never stop worrying about them, never stop wanting to keep them safe, even when they think they can handle everything on their own.

They can’t, of course, but neither can anyone. That’s why we all need the Good Shepherd.