The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn,3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.
Isaiah 61: 1 – 3 NIV
As a counsellor I often see people at their most desperate moments. People come in with depression, they come with anxiety, some have cheated on a spouse, some have been cheated on, others have addictions. I see people who are afraid to move into that relationship or job or business. Sometimes I meet people who keep finding their abuser in one relationship after another. Most of them have tried all kinds of books and advice to change their circumstances. Yet they find themselves stuck.
These people have tried so many things and they have failed to create the change they desperately desire in their lives Almost all them have the same unspoken question. For some it’s more on the surface and for others it’s hidden down deep inside in a place where they don’t have to look very often.
The question often takes slightly different forms, “Can I heal?” “Is there hope for me?” “I’ve tried everything I don’t think change is even possible!” “Can I change?” “Can I stop doing what I’m doing?”
Somehow through a series of circumstances these people have become deeply entangled in their problem and in their life circumstances. Often they feel deeply alone and isolated. Some have been rejected or cast off by families and church. Many have done things they are deeply ashamed of. Often they have lost hope. When I see these people I feel their pain, their sorrow, their aloneness, and their despair and I am reminded of the parable of the lost sheep.
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 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.
Luke 15: 1- 7 NIV
This parable reminds me of what Jesus does with people who are alone and lost. People who have be cast aside by others and people who have given up hope.
First let’s start with what Jesus was doing. Jesus was… hanging out with sinners, eating with them and welcoming them.
Have you ever walked into a room where the mood is good perhaps even celebratory and yet somehow you know that a number of these people are living in profoundly difficult painful situations? In my mind’s eye I see this being true of the people in Jesus’ company.
My imagination skips a step forward and I see the people I described above, deeply wounded, afraid to hope, and yet in the company of someone who refuses to judge them. Someone who loves them despite their deepest secrets. I’ve been fortunate to know a few people like this. You can tangibly feel the difference when you around them. They engender hope and freedom. You feel energy coming back into your body and mind when you are around them. No wonder Jesus was always surrounded by a crowd.
My imagination flutters again and see myself in the room with Jesus. I see some people I know and several I don’t. Perhaps one of them is you… we haven’t met yet. We’re eating and smiling and telling the greatest stories somehow free from that heaviness that tight inhibition (that might cause you to hide or perform exuberantly just so people won’t see your pain, your hopelessness, your shame.) What’s happening…? it’s a strange sensation but somehow I feel free, I feel accepted, I feel the power to do something good, and the freedom to relax even if I don’t get it right.
And then the shoe drops, as it always does (for those of us who live in shame filled relationships.) “Hey Chester what are you doing lazing around here! I’ve been looking for you all afternoon you worthless, good for nothing, expletive, expletive….! And without pause for a breath “Jesus! You call yourself a teacher of what is right and good and yet you do nothing correct these lazy, worthless, delinquent reprobates!”
And the room falls silent.
Who is speaking? For anyone of us it could be a parent, a teacher, the neighbor lady, one of our pastors or church leaders. For me I grew up with deep sense that I had to perform correctly to be loved and that somehow I my performance was never good enough. Somehow in the midst of a Christian family I became a lost sheep. We are the lost sheep. That person that you thought of when I started my article is the lost sheep. I am a lost sheep and so are you.
The diatribe that I created above (or something like it) triggers or provokes if you will Jesus’ parable and response…
“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’” Luke 15: 4-6
When the wolf comes snarling at our sins, when we hate ourselves so much we’ve lost sight of hope, Jesus sets out to find us. And when he does…
All of heaven celebrates.
And who can separate us from the love of God, “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8: 37-39
I know Jesus has a plan for you. I don’t know how much you will heal or change but I know your plan includes healing, change and redemption. Most of all I know that you are loved, I know you always have been loved, And I know that you always will be loved. Take a moment to rest in that and then find someone who loves like that to share your journey with.
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Until next time…