Monday, May 4, 2015

Lost and found

Last week, there was a day of lost...but not found.  A friend and I spent an entire day looking for a lost calf, slashing the pasture in straight lines and diagonals, from behind the wheel of an ATV and on foot.  We were convinced that we searched every square foot of a 30 acre field, the ground obscured by red clover a foot high and spring grasses up to the knees.  Undergrowth that could easily conceal an eighty pound newborn calf.  We crossed the hot wire in several areas, around the pond, to the edge of and into the woods, into the bottom. Thinking that a newborn could stumble over the low voltage without missing a beat.   It was a great day for looking - blue skies and slight breezes - but not a good day for finding.  As the day wound down,  we conceded that there was nowhere else to search and were required to accept the "coyote theory."  That some time the night before, coyotes had slunk up from their dens at the river and dragged away the defenseless calf.  Not a pretty picture but one we had to draw.

A short back-story on the missing calf.  My friend had put the mother up in the barn one evening since the weather was calling for flooding rains and possible tornadoes.  She was close to giving birth and he didn't want to take any chances of her or her newborn getting injured.  The problem was:  he didn't know she had already given birth that day.  When he released her from the barn the next morning, her older calf ran up to her and started suckling, confusing the momma cow into thinking that her older calf was her newborn.  So momma cow didn't venture out into the pasture to try to locate her new calf.  Letting that job fall to my friend and me.  And we failed. But not for lack of trying.

It's a sad story, but, during the search while my aching feet and legs covered acres of rolling land, I had plenty of time to think.  And the story that came to mind was the parable that Jesus told about the lost sheep.  And how the shepherd left the ninety-nine to go in search of the one.  And of the great joy upon finding that single one out of an even one hundred.

I've never admitted it, but I'm not sure that I ever fully understood the parable.  I guessed that it was a simple concept but, as usual, I was always looking for something else...something hidden in the undergrowth.

I felt many things during the search.  Frustration ranked pretty close to the top of the list.  Hope was embedded in there somewhere.  Futility crept in every so often.  But, strangely, each and everything that I felt was wrapped in something else.  And that something else was love.  Love for life in all its forms.  Love for the calf that I had never laid eyes on.  Love for things in need.  And love for the connectedness of all things under the sky.

Maybe that was all Jesus was saying when he talked about the lost sheep.  That it isn't about the sheep at all.  And not really about the shepherd.  The search, though.  That's different.  Because the search signified a caring heart and the recognition that all things are precious.  And worthy of effort.  The search was, and is, an extension of love.  My search said that something was important enough for me to leave my regular life behind - to allow the ninety-nine other things that were orbiting my existence to stay suspended in orbit for a little while - while I expended all my time and energy and, yes, love, on something else.  Something that needed me.  Something that couldn't help itself.

And though I didn't find the calf or experience the joy of locating something that was lost,  I found one more little universal puzzle piece.  And, snapping it into place with a satisfying click, I became just a little more whole myself.

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