What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? If it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray. So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish. (Matthew 18:12-14 NASB)
The edge of the sun is just peeking over the horizon when the back door slams.
“I can’t find him,” my husband reports. Happily sleeping with the herd last night, one tiny goat has wandered off and is nowhere to be found.
I pull on my boots and a jacket and head out into the chilly morn. Walking the goat field, I carefully check every hollow and corner. Baby goats frolic near their mothers. It has been a good year for kidding.
But there is no sign of our missing baby. The lump in my throat grows as I open the gate to leave the field.
The sun is brightening the sky. Looking up the fence line I see nothing but grass. I begin walking a large loop around the perimeter of the field that our little missing goat should call home. I am fearing the worst now, and head toward a stand of trees from which we have often heard coyotes in the dark of night. Nothing. Nothing but the rustle of leaves and morning trill of a songbird.
Behind the trees I circle, my view of the goat field now obscured. I am certain that the kid has come to harm, and fear the state he will be in if I find him. Will there be any hope? Will I even see him? So small, so helpless, out in the dark of night with no mama and no fence to protect him. I try to keep my mind from wandering to the possibilities and focus on scanning the ground for a small brown form.
Oh this baby! Rejected by his birth mama, I had nursed him back from hypothermia his first day of life, and had been bottle feeding him until the previous day, when he had been adopted by a real goat mama. It had been his first night in the field with his new mama. Had I made the wrong decision?
I continue my search, now walking out from the trees into a large field. My eyes play tricks on me… there he is! No, it is a can. Now there! No, just a gnarled tree root. Hope paints baby goats all over the field.
Finally turning back toward the house, I feel a familiar heaviness settle on me. The homestead brings forth much life each year, but loss and death are always players in the rhythm of our seasons. I am almost sure now that he is gone.
The loop is almost complete. I scan the garden to my left, adjoining the front of the goat field, and squeeze out a last bit of hope… he was there yesterday… maybe?
He is not there.
I am reaching for the gate when something makes me turn and look back over my right shoulder.
There, wedged in a tiny hole, in the middle of a tangle of wild grape vines, is our little lost goat.
I catch my breath and turn back. Is he dead? I call his name. He doesn’t move at first. I call him again and he lifts his head and looks right at me. He struggles to stand and softly bleats.
I get down on my hands and knees and reach out to him. He wiggles but is stuck. He has wedged himself in so deeply that he can’t move in any direction.
I pull back my sleeves and reach in, my arms scraping against the rough bends of the woody vines. After much breaking of vines and maneuvering, I pull a warm furry little goat into my relieved arms. He doesn’t have a scratch on him.
My heart is pounding with joy as I carry the kid to his new mama for breakfast.
Joy in having found him, yes, but also joy because..
What was lost had been found.
I had not been willing for him to perish, even though we had many other goats.
Without hesitation I had gone straight into enemy territory to seek him, and had willingly been scratched and scraped to retrieve him from his self-imposed entrapment.
He had known my voice and had tried to come to me when I called.
And now I held him in my arms rejoicing, bringing him to what he needed most right then, nourishment.
A little saved lamb myself, carrying a tiny rescued kid.
So He told them this parable, saying, “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. (Luke 15:3-7 NASB)