Walking our Faith: The most important relationships in our lives are these (column)

On Wednesday night I walked outside at 2 a.m. A carpet of stars sparkled with brilliant intensity in the frigid night air. I stopped to admire their beauty and flung a prayer toward heaven as I turned back to my own version of Jesus’ parable of the shepherd searching for one lost sheep. Last week I spent seven days with Mom at the beach. The week was unremarkable. During the day, we sat outside and read, enjoying the ocean breeze. Evenings, we joined our friends for dinner. It was perfect. All I wanted was to spend time with my mother, to be with someone I love so dearly. When I returned to Breckenridge on Wednesday afternoon, Pat stopped by to welcome me back with an hour of knitting. I told Pat that although I know Mom is very happy in Florida, and I to call Breckenridge home, the first day back my heart feels tender with missing Mom. However, the ties that bind us so closely together are no match for the 2,000 miles which separate us. During one of my walks on the beach last week, I was also thinking about another relationship, the one we have with God. Why does God seek a personal relationship with us? Why should we pursue a deeper relationship with God? After Pat left, I went outside and made a good effort of brushing most of the snow off my car and as I came back in the house, my little Newfie, Kiki, slipped between me and the doorway. Out she flew to run with our neighbor’s Husky. They headed off toward the wooded lot next door. I know it’s her favorite place, but I worry and usually don’t want her off leash because there are moose. Late afternoon became evening and still Kiki did not return. I kept going outside calling her name, but she didn’t respond. Then, I would go in the house and leave the front door open hoping she would follow me in.  This continued until midnight. Using my flashlight, I walked as far as I could in the snow that came up above my knees. I knew she was in the woods. I also knew it was very likely that she was watching me, and as I walked in her direction, she would run the other way. I went out at 2 a.m. and then again at 4 — still no sign of Kiki. I kept my bedroom window open hoping to hear her. At 5:45 something drew me to my bedroom window. Standing there was a dark shape against a predawn field of snow. I rushed downstairs and opened the door and then sat by the fireplace because I knew Kiki wouldn’t come until she was ready. It took her another ten minutes, but she came in and raced up the stairs to my bedroom. I followed and dropped to my knees, wrapped my arms around her to warm her, and told her how much I loved her. Kiki is a 9-year-old Newfoundland dog, and before I adopted her last year, she spent her life in a pen with little human contact, as a breeding dog. She loves other dogs but is wary of humans. I understand that running into the woods gives Kiki a sense of freedom that she never had, but because I know the dangers in the woods I worry about her. Although I have never had children, I understand the way I feel about Kiki must be some small measure of how my mother has worried about me on more than one evening when I was out too late with friends. And I am reminded of a trailer I recently saw for “Beautiful Boy,” a movie that not only describes the destructive toll of addiction but the even more powerful bonds of love between fathers, mothers and children. As I walked in the freezing winter night, softly calling Kiki‘s name and whispering a prayer to God for her safe return, it occurred to me that in Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep, Jesus is describing not the loss of a piece of property, but the painful longing of love and reunion a parent feels for a child who is estranged. Because in the parable, we are the lost sheep that Jesus goes out into the night to search for.

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the 99 in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who do not need to repent.” Luke 15:3-7 And this is why it is so necessary for us to heal and cherish our relationships as adult children with our mothers and fathers. Because we are human, we remember the mistakes and hurt more than the love which we often took for granted. Equally, it is essential for us to understand how dearly God loves us and how deeply we are loved.

It is vital for us to pursue a relationship with God, to experience how deeply he longs for us. When we experience God’s healing love for us, we can heal the other relationships in our lives. Our fathers and mothers, our children and our God make us who we are. They are the most important relationships in our lives. When we give these relationships the compassion and attention they deserve, we become the people God created us to be: loving.

Suzanne Anderson lives in Breckenridge.

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