It happened several times when I was young. It is a normal occurrence for families. Parents are herding the kids; but focus on their shopping mission. The kids, distracted by ‘some of their favorite things’ briefly pause to investigate this or that. A few seconds becomes a minute or two and the child looks up to realize the parents are gone.
There is a moment of sheer terror as you wonder, "Where are my parents?". There is a feeling you get, like fire, in the stomach. The breathing becomes gasps. “Where did they go? Where are they?” You want to scream out at the top of your lungs “Momma! Daddy! Where are you?”
The reality of being “lost” always precedes the experience of feeling lost. The distractions of life sometimes keep us preoccupied, but eventually that moment comes when we look up, survey the situation, and come to the blood curdling realization; I am alone.
For human beings, that summarizes our situation. It is that situation that Jesus fully embraced when He became fully human. It is that situation, being lost, which He accepted as our Savior.
My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?
Jesus, the one who was always close to the Father, takes the bitter medicine for us. Feeling lost and alone and abandoned is the sinner’s condition. It is the worst part of the death on the cross.
As a frequent observer of the pain of others, I know how many of us feel, from time to time, that God has abandoned us. “Where is God?” we ask. “Where is God?”
Yet the truth is that in a myriad of ways it is we who have wandered off. God has said, “come with me” and we pause to investigate all the “shiny things” which are not God, and are often not even good.
As a parent, I have learned that there is a terror more horrifying than being a lost child..... Being the parent. It does not happen often, but sometimes you find yourself seeking after the child that has wandered off. At first you look, a bit nervously, but under control. Then, as the search lengthens and widens you begin to think the unthinkable. That same fire in the stomach rages and your throat constricts and you wonder if you will pass out. Praying to God you become more and more agitated. Your imagination is filled with countless stories of other parents whose search came up empty.
If Jesus’ cry to the Father is heart wrenching, we do well to remember the reason why Jesus is on that cross in the first place….
A man, a woman, a garden, a tree. A set up expectations. A sneaky snake and a willful, fully chosen disobedience. Suddenly the man and woman hear the footsteps of God and hide.
Then, the first question in the Bible. It is uttered by God (a God not looking at all All Powerful, All Mighty, All Knowing...).
“Where are you?”
Whatever else the story of Eden is, it is the story of the human race. It is our story, you and I. We have wandered off and now stay hidden from God. And God, the loving Father, His divine stomach on fire with worry and concern, furtively runs around the garden screaming, “Where are you?”
If Jesus’ question can be paraphrased, “Father where are you?” then in a sense it captures our cries (we for Whom He became man and died). It is the question children ask when they wander off, blaming the parent. And until you grow up you never understand the look in their eyes when they find you. (that same look in the eyes of our Father in Heaven)
And in some mystical, mysterious way, that is what the cross of Jesus is about. The lost getting found. Folks like you and me.