Nothing like a little excitement to kick off our work week.
Monday afternoon, my son, Cole, called me.
“Mom,” he began, “where’s Cassie?”
Confused, I asked, “What do you mean? Isn’t she home with you?”
“No,” he stated matter-of-factly. “She didn’t ride the bus.”
“What?” I yelled. “She wasn’t on the bus? Did you call her?”
“She didn’t take her phone to school with her. It’s still here at the house,” he said.
I hung up on him as the panic began to set in. I immediately dialed my mom.
“Mom,” I said anxiously. “Is Cassie with you?”
“No. Why?” she asked.
I began to explain the situation, how she failed to get on the bus. She didn’t have her phone, and I had literally no idea where she might be.
“I’m on my way to school,” she said.
With that, she was out searching for my daughter while I tried to get away from work. I was trying to remain calm, think things through, search for her from a distance. But, the panic was growing with every minute.
I called the school to see if she might still be there for an after-school activity she failed to mention to us. They issued an all-call, but Cassie was not to be found.
By this time, my mom was at school, and the staff had verified she was not in the building. After Mom fully explained the situation, the teacher put out a Facebook notification. Surely someone in town knew where she was.
I was frantically trying to call my oldest son to see if maybe, just maybe, his sister was with him. However, being the responsible child he is, he makes a habit of turning off his phone and putting it away while driving. Despite my repeated calls, I could not get him to answer his phone.
As I rushed out the door of the hospital, I took time to stop and ask my dear friend Donna to pray. Her husband, a retired secret service agent who now devotes his time to finding missing and exploited children, would be ready if I needed him. He knows the importance of pouncing on these situations quickly.
And with that, I was out the door trying to find my missing daughter.
After what seemed like an eternity (although it was probably only 30 minutes), we were within minutes of notifying the police and having an amber alert issued
And that’s when my son pulled up to the house…with his little sister.
Neither one had any idea what type of reception they were about to get. My son was oblivious to the repeated phone calls he received on the short drive home from school (of course, he had to make a Sonic stop before coming home). And, my daughter. My daughter was completely oblivious to the fact that her face was almost plastered all over the news, her name in lights over the highways. I know she wants everyone to know her and know her name, but I don’t think that’s what she had in mind.
My dad was at the house waiting when they pulled up, and he was the first to give my daughter a tongue lashing. How dare she not call us to let us know where she was! Didn’t she know how upset we would be?
By the time Dad finished with her, my mom was on her way home from the school. She came straight to the house, and she gave my daughter another good lecture. Cassie was now in tears.
I was on my way home when I received the news that Cassie was home safely. The dam broke, and my emotions spilled out everywhere. Then, when I reached the house, Cassie received yet another lecture.
A lecture combined with unbelievably tight hugs. Hugs that didn’t want to end. A mom just wanting to hold her close, to know that she really was ok. A lecture born out of love. A necessary lecture that was seriously balanced with love.
And that’s when we got the full story. She explained that she had run back into the school to grab something she forgot, and then she missed the bus. She saw her brother’s car at the middle school gym. He was shooting baskets, so she innocently found him and asked for a ride home. That was better than asking Mom or Grandma or Grandpa to drive all the way to the school to pick her up. She had a perfect plan.
She only forgot one small detail: letting someone know where she was.
Blake, on the other hand, thought she was playing on her phone while he was shooting baskets, so he assumed she had used her phone to let me know where she was. Cassie assumed that I would simply know that she was with her brother. She never thought to borrow a phone and send me a text or call me.
In reality, neither was a good assumption.
And it almost gave this poor mom (and Grandma and Grandpa) a heart attack.
I am so thankful that she was safe. I am so thankful that she was with her brother. I am thankful that my son is a responsible teen driver who puts his phone away. I am thankful for parents who jumped in to search when I was too far away to get there quickly. I am thankful for praying friends. I am thankful for men who devote their lives to finding missing children. I am so thankful that I have my daughter safely at home with me, to lover her for another day.
And I am thankful that my daughter learned some valuable lessons (I hope…).
“A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve… “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘…I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.…”So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began. Luke 15:11-24
My daughter showed a high degree of irresponsibility this week. She broke my heart, left me absolutely terrified. And yet, all I could think about was getting her home safely. My mama’s heart just wanted to hold her tightly, not let her out of my sight.
Isn’t that what the dad in the story above did? His son showed a high degree of self-centeredness followed by irresponsibility. I’m certain that his daddy’s heart was broken when his son left—not just because he was gone but because he turned against all he had been taught.
The father probably spent his days looking for his son, wondering if he was safe. He probably asked everyone where his son was, if they had seen him. Every time he went to town, he probably looked at every face, hoping to catch a glimpse of him just to know that he was still alive.
And on that day when he saw his son walking down the drive, head hung in shame, the father overlooked his irresponsibility. He overlooked the hurt and pain his son had caused. He forgot all the days of fear and uncertainty. He wanted nothing more than to hold him, to embrace him, to celebrate him.
Did he eventually get a good tongue-lashing? Did he have to endure his father’s lecture, reminding him that he had been irresponsible and selfish? Did he tell him how scared he was that he would never again get to see his son?
I suspect he might have had those words with his son…after the party. I suspect he might have made sure that his son knew the importance of good decisions…after the celebration. I suspect there might have been some discipline…after the celebration.
And that’s what good parents do. They welcome you home, but they make sure you understand the pain you caused.
And that’s what our heavenly Father does. He extends grace in our irresponsibility. He forgives our selfishness. He searches everywhere for his children when we wander from the security of his provisions.
And yet he often lets us suffer the consequences of our sins.
I don’t know where you’ve been irresponsible…or selfish…or just plain stupid. I don’t know what wrong assumptions you have made, how you’ve left your Father hurting, wishing you were safely home with him so he could provide for you. I don’t know what your life has become.
But I know the Father. I know he’s looking for you. I know he’s pulling out all the stops to find you. I know he’s ready to welcome you home, ready to pull you close and embrace you.
Will there be consequences? Yes, very possibly. But the grace and love and forgiveness you experience will be far greater.
Come home to the Father today.