Grieving the sheep

I debated writing this post. I still do. The truth is, that writing this hurts. A good several years ago, I made a friend. He was the friend of many actually. He became like a brother to me over the course of several years. We shared many very deep conversations, holiday’s, birthday celebrations, and heartaches and triumphs. He was a friend to my husband and like an adopted uncle to my children.

I will never forget the moment he told me that he would begin distancing himself. I was in a hospital bed post lumbar spinal fusion, and I had a medication carnival’s worth of narcotics running through my veins. He sat down by my hospital bed and nearly whispered this to me. “I’m going to start distancing myself until I leave.”

My sleeping stupor suddenly halted. My eyes shot open to look over and see him slumped forward with his elbows on his knees and his head down. I immediately said “Noooooo….why?” It was a hoarse and croaky beginning to tears. “Why? Nooo. Don’t. Please?” The tears now coming quickly and choking my composure completely out.

The whole truth of why he left, is that love and family terrified him. Probably still to this day.  He left because something in him was broken when he was a child. Broken and crushed, and since then, he doesn’t let himself settle. He looks everywhere else for contentment, except to the one who can give him full and perfect contentment.

I miss him always still. I thought that it would get easier, but it doesn’t. I feel like he died, but worse because he chose to leave. The grief doesn’t go away. I think I have just gotten more used to missing him. It’s like an aching joint that you just grow accustomed to, because you always have to deal with it. Your mind numbs to the ache until you do something to jar it. Then the memories and frustration and sadness rush in, and I pray and grieve for him. It has happened in the middle of the night, while driving, on my children’s birthdays, and many other random moments I don’t predict coming. I wonder where he is and how he is doing.

I don’t regret loving him or any of the time we all spent together. I’d do it all again. I hope he would too, because it would be really sad to think he wouldn’t.

I’m sharing this because I was feeling the parallel it must be for Jesus to be rejected. What it must feel like for Him to desire the lost sheep. He may have a whole flock, but His heart still cries out for the sheep that wandered away. He loves that sheep because it’s unlike any of His other’s. It’s important to Him, and He doesn’t want it to leave or get lost, or even feel lonely. He loves that sheep for all of it’s individuality and He values the uniqueness each of His sheep have.

His heart must ache to watch us reject what He offered to us with His life. It probably aches even worse if we reject it because we feel we don’t deserve it and are too ashamed or prideful. He knew we didn’t deserve it when He hung on the cross and He knew that some of the sheep He loved deeply, would not accept this.

It has been on my mind intermittently, that Judas Iscariot, was allowed to walk with Him and be His apostle until the very moment that Judas betrayed Him and left. I still know that if Judas had asked forgiveness for that in true sorrow, that Jesus would have forgiven and pardoned him. Judas chose to leave. He was too ashamed and proud and consumed with regret, to face his sin against his Lord. I am sure Jesus grieved Judas. What awful sadness for not only Judas, but those He knew would follow suit, even after He gave His life for them. “Forgive them Father, they know not what they do.” I’m sure many if not most of them didn’t know what they truly did until it was much too late.

I know that if my friend ever returned, he would be welcomed with open arms. I would be overjoyed and the hurts of the past would melt away. I am sure Jesus feels the same when one of His children, His sheep, return. He created the no sheep left behind program. He offered it freely to whoever wants it.

My heart will remain open. I will choose not stop loving because I’m afraid of rejection. If anyone had an excuse to close off their heart, it was Jesus. He chooses to leave that heart open and vulnerable to us again and again, offering us chance after chance. He even bears the wounds of pure rejection. He knows what that feels like. The rejection of those who choose to not accept his love. Now that is some crazy kind of beautiful and deep profound love. Love is still worth it, even if it hurts sometimes. If Jesus can offer me this love, I have more than enough love to share, even with a sheep who may choose to walk away.

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