A few weeks ago, we returned home after a wonderful family vacation in Michigan. A week filled with sunny days, afternoons at the beach, and hearty family meals at night had us rested and relaxed. As it was dusk and distant lightning threatened rain, we hustled to unload our vehicles. We were able to get all the suitcases, bags, and boxes into the house just before the doubly dark skies opened up and a heavy rain began.
A bit weary after a day of traveling and unloading, Miriam my wife, Celia my daughter, and I sat down and enjoyed a few minutes of reflection over snacks before deciding to head to bed. Around 10:30 p.m. Miriam, thinking our dog Oscar was already in his crate, went in to close him up for the night. But Oscar, our pet King Charles Spaniel of eight years, who has grown increasingly blind because of a chronic disease this breed often suffers, was not there. A thorough search through the house revealed that he was missing.
In the midst of all the ins and outs of unloading, we remembered we had left him outside to do his business. In all our years here, Oscar has never wandered away. We can let him out and, after no longer than ten minutes, he is back at the door barking or scratching to be let back in to be rewarded with the doggie biscuits he loves. But he was not at either of our doors.
For the next couple of hours we searched for Oscar. In the pouring rain with lightning flashes overhead, we used lights as we tromped though woods, looked around neighbor's yards, and walked then drove along streets calling for Oscar, hoping we would spot him. One neighbor even joined us at that late hour to help us. But well after midnight, we came back home defeated. With no sign of him anywhere, we were convinced that the coyotes we often hear at night, and that the neighbors keep warning about, had snatched Oscar. I could not distinguish the rain from the tears on my wife and daughter's faces as I sought to comfort them. One would say "I know he is just a dog" before bursting into tears again. We could not believe our family vacation had ended on such a sad note. The thought of him being torn apart by coyotes haunted us.
However, well after 1:00 a.m., as we were trying to ready ourselves for bed, Miriam and I heard a shout from Celia. When Oscar came up missing, she had posted about it on various forms of social media. Someone had seen her post on a neighborhood app and another one on Facebook, where a man asked if anyone had lost a blind dog. She then contacted us. Apparently Oscar, confused due to his blindness, having been away on our vacation, and the storms, had wandered out onto the street. A man in a car almost hit him, but stopped, picked him up, and took him to a nearby neighbor's house. In the wonders of the digital age, we found out that Oscar was alive and we could pick him up the next morning!
So after that dark, rainy night, there was a joyous reunion early that sunny, Sunday morning. Celia retrieved Oscar from the neighbor's and brought him home, his tail wagging furiously amidst all the loving and petting. I think there were more tears shed, though for different reasons than the night before. Everyone following the story on social media rejoiced with us.
Last week, I taught a church planting class at RPTS to over thirty folks from all around the country. It was a wonderful week, as we shared the challenges, struggles, and joys of bringing the gospel to others. At one point, I was emphasizing how vital it is to keep an evangelistic thrust in a church plant. To help them empathize with sinners, I encouraged them to meditate on how the Bible describes them.
For sinners, like our little dog, are lost, blind, and, by all appearances, dead. Yet are we willing to go out and search for them? Do we keep calling them over and over again to come home to Christ? Do we shed tears over the prospect of them being destroyed eternally? Do we use all righteous means available to seek them? Do we have the faith, encouraged by Luke 15, that lost people, pictured as straying sheep, misplaced coins, and wandering sons, will eventually return to their rightful place? Do we anticipate rejoicing wholeheartedly when what is lost is found by Christ?
After all, Oscar is "just a dog." How much more joyous it should be to us when a lost sinner, made in the image of God, returns to his Maker and Redeemer! Do people in your congregation or church plant seek the lost and rejoice over their salvation like they would in finding a lost sheep, coin, or dog? Do you? Do I? May the Lord give us more the heart of our Savior, who came "to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10).