The human brain is hard-wired to pin and file those life experiences which are the most joyful, embarrassing, shocking or fearful. That’s why we remember our prom date a zillion years ago, but perhaps can’t recall what we had for lunch last Friday afternoon.
One of my earliest memories occurred when I was just three years old. My older siblings were in school and I wanted to go and play with my friend, Tommy Buckner, who lived four doors up the street. With instructions to come straight home if he couldn’t play, my mother watched carefully from our yard, as I went down the alleyway to his gate and entered. When I arrived at his door, there was no one home. Deflated, but not defeated, I decided to take a little stroll before I headed home. Maybe by the time I circled back, Tommy would be home! Mom, of course, would be none the wiser.
I have little memory of the bulk of this independent adventure. I meandered and took in the neighborhood sights. I had never ambled further than Tommy’s house by myself and the experience was pretty exciting.
I walked and I walked. Finally, my three year old legs grew tired and I finally stopped and really looked around. I remember taking a slow, 360 degree turn…and realizing I had no idea where I was. I was on a street where new houses were going up, in a neighborhood I had never seen before. For the first time in three years I was alone, and I didn’t know what to do.
Forlorn, I sat on the curb, staring at my little mary-janes. I had no idea how to get back where I belonged, and I there wasn’t a soul around to ask. I wept.
I don’t recall how long I sat there in despair, but soon I heard faint music. Harmonica music! My pitiful heart soared! My nine year old brother, John played the harmonica! The song grew louder and sure enough, around the corner came John on his shiny black Shwinn, playing his harmonica, searching for me. He had told our Dad that he would play, like the Pied Piper, in hopes I would hear the music and know that he was coming.
I still remember John’s smile when he saw me. He left his bike and walked me home, holding tight to my little hand. He knew the way home.
I, of course, had no idea the panic which had overtaken our neighborhood. I must have really been gone a long time! Every neighbor had been mobilized, my parents were frantic. Everyone was looking everywhere for little Sally.
My story had a very happy ending. It is however, a good metaphor for how easy it is in this world to mosey off track and lose your bearings. Without real intent or malice aforethought, each of us can rationalize our actions and get busy on our own agenda. Soon we have meandered too far afield from where God truly wants us to be- and where we know we should be. Lost.
Granted, a lot of people- just like little Sally- are blissfully unaware that they are lost. They have no clue and aren’t even looking for home. Eventually, they may grow weary or desparate when they look up realizing they have no idea how they managed to arrive in this strange place and be open to a Savior holding The Roadmap to Eternity.
Others know. They marched off from their Christian heritage somewhere along the way and lost sight of Jesus. Self-absorption or a little rebellion can soon land us where we don’t want to be. Sometimes it isn’t even a wretched place where we wind up. It just isn’t with Jesus, so it will never feel right. Sooner or later, with dawning despair, there we all find ourselves: curbside and alone.
I won’t embarrass my brother by comparing him to Jesus- a good metaphor will only go so far. He is a good brother, though, and I am grateful for his wonderful heart. This memory does remind me of the parable Jesus told, recorded in Luke 15:1-7, about the Shepherd who leaves his flock of 99 to go hunt for the little lost lamb. What incredible, boundless love He has for us! Even when we are clueless, Jesus knows we are lost. He is faithfully waiting for us to wear ourselves out, and cry out to him! If you listen, there might even be harmonica music.