The Lost Keys

January 29, 2014

Somewhere and some time last fall, I lost my car keys and accompanying house key. Thank heaven my church keys were on a separate ring at the time. It happened just about the time I was finding out about my cancer, still in the hub-bub of unpacking from a long vacation, switching purses, re-organizing for “normal” life.  Because I wasn’t driving once treatment started, the car key was not needed; but the house key had sentimental value because it was covered with Stanford logos. A small thing, I know, but I was ticked to have lost it.

For a long time, I said, “It must be around here someplace, and it will turn up,” but I had other fish to fry and concentrated my effort on coping with radiation and chemo. Cancer patients talk about “chemo brain,” a fuzzy headed inability to keep thoughts flowing and retain memory. I don’t think I ever had that condition, except losing my keys gave evidence to the contrary. Whatever. After searching all my pockets, retracing steps, and otherwise turning the house upside down looking for them, I gave up on the keys by Christmas.

Meanwhile, life goes on. Last Friday night, my husband and I decided it was time to start testing hiking muscles, so we made a plan for a couple of modest hikes this past weekend to assess my strength and stamina. The weather here in the Bay Area has been stellar, a balmy 70 degrees most days, unlike our friends just about everywhere else in the icebox called “the winter of 2014.” The trails were anticipated to be dry and dusty—really, summer conditions around here—so I decided to get out my nylon hiking pants, packed away for the season last fall.

You guessed it. As I unfurled the pants, out dropped my car keys onto the floor, their familiar little clatter sounding like music to my ears. I hooted and screamed in delight, relieved that I had been right and they were in a “safe” place all this time. It was a wonderful moment, later shared in phone calls to two friends who had helped me look for them along the way.

So you know now how much I identify with the woman in Jesus’ parable about the lost coin (Luke 15:8-10). She focused on her search, scrutinized and swept every corner, and searched high and low for something of value to her. And when she found it, she called together her friends and neighbors to celebrate. Jesus used this ordinary life occurrence to illustrate the joy in heaven when one sinner repents.

To God, we are like the lost coin (or the lost sheep, or the lost son, in the two stories surrounding this one in Luke’s gospel). God searches for us when we go wayward, and all of heaven rejoices when we turn around to be found by him. Our lostness is of great concern to God, and it is worth pondering the lengths he has gone to find us and bring us back where we belong. His search is motivated by love and “ownership,” in the sense that we along with all of God’s creation are his; we belong to God. We are cherished by God, and missed when we assert our independence and walk out of fellowship with him. We are embraced and forgiven as we turn around, leave our errant path, and face the Savior.

The first time I truly repented, I was seventeen and gripped by the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have repented many times since, as God has shown me those areas where I have served myself or mammon instead of him, where I have embraced a habit more tightly than him, where I have asserted my way contrary to his. The great turnaround underway in this season of my life is from busy blindness to contemplative reflection, from feeling driven to called, and from procrastinator to proactive servant. There’s a lot of rejoicing in heaven yet to come, as these reversals—otherwise known as repentance—are built into my life.

So how about you? Are you lost in any area of your life, wandering off the path, distracted into disobedience? Are you asserting independence or self-reliance, rebuffing God’s grace and help? You realize, don’t you, that maintaining such a position is postponing a great party in heaven not to mention the redemption of that part of your life.

I’m really glad I found my keys. I’m even more glad that God found me and has been working his transformation in me all these years. But my joy is miniscule, compared to the ecstatic celebration God is hosting as one of his own repents and returns to the party.



3 Responses to “The Lost Keys”

  1. What a great segue, preacher-woman! Keys to coins!

  2. Jim Skidmore Says:

    Rev. Mary,

    Amen! I am so thankful to the Lord that He does not leave us where we are. When we repent and turn to Him we are reminded again that He loved us while we were yet sinners. And He still does.



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