This morning Mark and I went to his sacrament meeting and then we high tailed it to the forum class at Reedwood Friends. A woman who was influential in me becoming a member there, a professor of theology, was in town and led the class.
She was speaking about a Quaker woman from the 1800s named Hannah Whitall Smith. She was raised in the orthodox Society of Friends, became agnostic for a few years, was influenced by the Plymouth Brethren in studying scripture, and spoke and wrote during the Holiness movement. She was a contemporary of George MacDonald and she became convinced of Universal Reconciliation, or as she called it, Restitution and she called it the mother heart of God. In other words, she came to believe that God is every bit as good, actually better, than a mother. If her children were naughty, she would not abandon them to eternal punishment, nor, she assumed, would God.
Sherill and I were discussing this tonight because we have believed this for at least thirty years now. Sherill had not only heard of Hannah Whitall Smith, but she owns some of her writings. She was reading some to me tonight and we were talking about the three parables Jesus told of the shepherd searching for the lost sheep, the woman sweeping the floor for the lost coin, and the prodigal son. Something was opened to me.
I am of an age when I sometimes lose things. Mark and I have been missing a key for at least a week now and it eats at me. I cannot be satisfied until that key is found. We have another, but I am uneasy about the missing key. I keep trying to figure out where it could be. I worry about it. I feel incomplete without it. I cannot rest until it has been found.
I believe that this is the case with God as well. The very fact that a person is “lost” leaves God ill at ease. God will not give up trying to “find” the “lost”. I am living proof. For many years I attended church but I had lost my faith in God. It seemed to me that God didn’t care about me and didn’t listen to my prayers. As I look back on that period of my life now, I can remember instances where I believe God was speaking to me, but I didn’t know that it was God speaking. Without that understanding, I didn’t act on what I was being told and I probably went through more suffering than was needful. I was so lost, but God never stopped seeking me out. God couldn’t rest till I was found.
The missing key has been a lesson to me. We are that missing key and even if God has other keys that are where they ought to be, God will not stop searching till the rest of us have been found. It is imperative that God do so because a missing key in the wrong hands would be such an awful thought.
Another example: I had an uncle whose son went missing for years. They didn’t know if he was dead or alive. My uncle was never at peace till the day his son finally came home for a visit. Whatever problems had caused the split were forgotten in the joy of having his son back and getting to catch up on where he’d been and meeting his family.
It is with this sense of loss that God continually seeks us out, even beyond death. God will never give up on having us back in the fold. Every one of us, including the Hitlers and the Husseins, are that important to God.