‘Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven. What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost. – Matthew 18:10-14
I like how in Matthew’s Gospel this parable of finding the lost sheep springs from an admonition to not despise the little ones, the children. The image of having an angel who always stands in God’s presence is particularly touching.
The parable is a story of inclusion. The shepherd leaves the ninety-nine sheep together. This togetherness is the realm of metaphoric community, of belonging, the place where relationship with God is known and valued. Being lost from that place is being out of touch with the spiritual sap that runs through us from our deepest core. Being found is coming into the awareness that we are one with all that is, universe-wide.
We can be part of a faith community, dutifully going to worship, engaging in outreach, and participating in learning opportunities and still be a lost sheep. The lost one is not someone who has done anything wrong or the one who has drifted away from a human spiritual community. Instead it is the one who believes that she or he does not belong to God and is not welcome in God’s realm.
The child in us understands talking to God. That does not mean that when we were children we had a particularly good spiritual relationship with the Holy, nor an evolved understanding of who God is. On the contrary, the mind of a child is a particularly fundamentalist, black-and-white place. No, our faith formation is a life-long journey into deeper and better discernment of our Creator.
But the simple belief that we are welcome, the willingness to risk a conversation, and to have trust that there will somehow be a response, despite rational indications to the contrary, that is a child-like quality that we need. And the simple willingness to take something miraculous at face value, the understanding that our minds are not the final arbiters of reality, that is something we also need. Play that is not ego-driven, wonder that is not contrived, hope that blossoms out of the most unusual circumstances, all these things are the gift of the child perspective.
God makes God’s self felt in all these places. God’s presence is all around us, and we know that when we are awake in our child-like souls. Whether or not we call it God, the relationship we find is the important thing. Even when we have no formal way of understanding it, the experience is key. Being found is as simple as turning around to see differently. And then we truly do see.
They have angels, the children within us and the children without – angels who continually see the face of God.
Laurie Gudim is a religious iconographer and liturgical artist, a writer and lay preacher living in Fort Collins, CO. See her work online at Everyday Mysteries.