What does repentance look like? A lost sheep. The shepherd leaves ninety-nine sheep to search for the one lost. The shepherd seeks, finds, lifts onto shoulders, and walks back carrying the sheep. What does the sheep do? It accepts. Kenneth Bailey wrote: “Repentance is not a work which earns our rescue. Rather, the sinner accepts being found.”[i]
Remember what it feels like to be lost. Separated from a parent or friend. Not knowing where you are. Caught up in pride through pleasures or resentments like the lost sons later in this parable. Hungry for love.
Remember what it feels like to be found. Reunited. Knowing where you are. Being seen, witnessed, accepted, and loved as you are for who you are. Welcomed and fed.
Remember what it feels like to share joy. “Come celebrate with me!” they say with a big smile and rising voice. Their countenance sparks heart-pumping energy in us. We smile and laugh or clap together.
Here are a couple suggestions for prayer. First, consider how Jesus is finding you again today. Listen to the Good Shepherd who says: “I found you. I love you.” Be still and gently hear in repetition: “I found you. I love you.”
When a child is found, picked up and held, they may push, flail and cry, but eventually they relax, slump, lean into, accepting. Pray with your body, first pushing, flailing, and crying the hurts and fears. Then relax, slump, or lean, whether seated, lying down, or standing and hold in a self-hug. As you do listen to Jesus: “I found you. I love you.”
Second, receive joy. Listen to Jesus say “Welcome home! Let’s celebrate!” Imagine Jesus’ face wide-eyed with big smile. Mirror that on your face. Notice how it feels in your body, the delight, the joy that God has for you. We keep getting lost, and Jesus continues to seek and find us. Relax into this truth—this love—accepting joy.
[i] Kenneth E. Bailey (2005) The Cross and the Prodigal: Luke 15 Through the Eyes of Middle Eastern Peasants. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, p34.
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