By: Jennifer King
"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing." Luke 15:4-5
I grew up in a faithful Catholic home. We went to Mass. My siblings and I were altar servers. My mother led us in family rosaries. I was surrounded by faith-filled people. However, as I was growing up, a number of things (broken home, drug use, death of loved ones) left me feeling unloved and lacking control of my own life. I thought I was a good person—I mean, I was doing all of the right things, wasn't I? So why would this loving God I’d heard so much about allow me to experience so much pain?
As I struggled with this question, I distanced myself more and more from God. And as I distanced myself, the parable of the Good Shepherd irritated me more and more. I thought, "Why would God abandon the 99 who are only trying their best to obey all of His rules? Why does the bad sheep get all of the attention? Why aren't more people questioning this messed up system?"
I went on a search to find control, purpose, and happiness in my life. In that search, I found friends and lots of parties.
In college, a friend realized how far I had fallen and invited me to her church. I said no. She invited me again. I again said no. This cycle continued until I finally went only so she would stop asking. I entered the room calculating how long I needed to stay before I could leave. But my attitude changed as they began to worship because I felt a sense of joy I'd never experienced before. I wanted this joy in my life but didn’t know how to get it.
I tried to model what I saw and heard. I downloaded some praise and worship songs. I tried reading scripture and praying. Nothing in my life changed and it all felt like an exercise in futility.
Fast forward a few years later—I prayed, "God, if you’re real, I need you to show up now or I’m done trying." It was then that I found myself at a Discovering Christ course.
During the Holy Spirit retreat, I asked God if He was real and to show Himself to me. In that moment of prayer, I was overwhelmed with the love of Jesus Christ. Out of my surrender and my desire for relationship, the Holy Spirit revealed God as my loving Father.
I remember reading the parable of the Good Shepherd again and I got it. As I was searching for control, purpose, and happiness, God was searching for me. Me. The one who willingly ran away from Him. Even when we wander, God never stops searching for us. And when we're found, God rejoices.
Because I’ve personally experienced the love of God through the power of the Holy Spirit, I want others to experience that love as well. I no longer look at the “one who wandered” with resentment. Instead, I rejoice with Jesus at their return.
If you want to experience the love of God, ask the Holy Spirit to open your heart and help you surrender your life to Jesus.