So once upon a time, there was this kid who thought nothing they did was right, mattered or did anything but cause problems. This kid was sometimes called a boat rocker. It's not like this kid, we'll call him Joe, ran the streets or anything. It's just that 'Joe' always had a question, thought about things in ways others didn't, and had a hard time with algebra.
These differences were just enough to place Joe in that space of being, or thinking he was an outsider. There was a time in Joe's family that was really difficult. His sister had died after a long illness and had left the family numb and grieving. His sister was a great person. She was always kind, never a challenge and even though she had trouble with math too - she was so genuinely good, most people never noticed.
Months had passed after his sister's death, and Joe came to the point in his grief that he wondered why he, the boat-rocker, had not been the one to be taken. Since his sister's death, Joe had tried not to be his boat-rocking self. He tried to be extra kind and extra good but the environmental eggshells of sadness and grief were taking their toll on everyone. Things were said, impressions were left and Joe began to think that God had taken the wrong kid to heaven. If he wasn't there - maybe all the unrest would be gone as well.
When his sister had still been alive, one of their favorite things to do was to go out to the woods with their oldest brother and compete in target practice with 22 shotguns. They lived out in the country and they were taught how to handle the guns safely. The oldest sibling even showed them how to fill and press their own bullets in the workshop of their basement. There was laughter in those days. It was exciting to go out to the range and see who would be the best that day. Those joyful days in the woods seemed to be a lifetime ago. The only thing that seemed to left from then, was the 22 rifle.
It was still in the upstairs bedroom, that rifle. It was the 'extra' bedroom now. Sometimes Joe would sit in the room simply to remember the happy days. He would try to go back in his imagination, to feel, to see and to hear the person that was his older sister, the good one.
Every now and then, Joe would open the dresser drawer and gaze at the 22 rife. He would only open the drawer a crack and let the sunlight gleam off it's black nose. He's look at the parts and remember all the instructions, how to clean it and where the safety was. How could it be that Joe could understood this 22, and not seem to understand how to live without upsetting something or someone?
On one day that was particularly trying, Joe went upstairs to the extra room to sit and hide from the world. Eventually, he slid off the neatly made bed and knelt over the drawer to quietly slide it open. The question came to his mind again. "Why was she taken, when it should have been me! I'm the one that causes all the problems. Since God made this mistake, maybe I should fix it for him."
How then could he fix it? His heart was pounding like a hammer in his chest. The bullets were not hard to find. He took the gun out of the drawer.
"I can fix this."
" I can stop this boat rocking for everyone"
" If I make this right, maybe things for everyone else will be good again."
"If I were gone, then..."
Tears were streaming down his face so much he could no longer see the rifle in his hands, but he could feel the cool metal.
"It could be fast. It would be alright. It would save so much trouble..."he thought to himself as the gun became heavier and heavier in his hands.
"God why didn't you take me!" "Why did you leave me and take the good one!" "What sense does it make for me to live anyhow! All these words spilled from his grief filled heart. He could not shout, because he did not want his parent's to hear him. But inside his mind he was screaming, "...why him...why not me...why not me!" He would make it right, he would do what he'd been thinking about since that first day when he opened that drawer.
"Stop! How could you do this to them? Haven't they lost enough already?"
Joe was so startled by the voice that he stood up, slipped the gun back into the drawer and retreated to the made bed like a character in a cartoon run backwards. It was like what almost happened - never was even a possibility. The voice was not angry. The voice was not his mom or dad's...but it was a voice he knew. It was so familiar. A warmth washed over Joe that took him back to a childhood dream...
He's dreamed about a picture he'd seen in Mrs. C's class. It was the one with the guy with long hair and a robe with all the children around him. In the dream, Joe had been the child sitting on Jesus lap. In the dream, Jesus was so kind, so caring and so attentive. Jesus never said anything about him being a boat rocker. The one thing Jesus did say in that dream was, "I love you Joe."
In that moment the voice, the warmth were there again. It was as if Joe was wrapped in an invisible electric blanket. Tears continued to fall from Joe's eyes as words of love and affirmation washed over him..."Stop, Joe...I love you Joe...I know it doesn't make sense, I know you are sad, but know I love you. You are unique and I need for you to live. I need for you to live. Your sister wants you to live..and your parents do too."
The words and warmth of Jesus affirmed Joe. The words of Jesus gave Joe a new life that day. The words of Jesus gave Joe the chance to learn that he wasn't unwanted or worthless - he was sad and a little lost. Something told Joe that Jesus had a place in his heart for those who are feeling lost.
So once upon a time there was a kid, a sad kid trying to find their way out of a forest of loss and fear. This kid was unique, and kind of awkward but this kid came to realize they were not alone in the mess they were in - Jesus was there with them. Because of Jesus, this kid is alive today and today is the day that kid gets to tell their story.
This kid wasn't Joe.
That kid was me.
Because of Jesus, because of his words - I am alive today. I know that some may not consider my story to be anything more than a fairy-tale, but this is my story. On that day in that room, had Jesus not spoken to me, I know I would have died.
On Easter Sunday, our guest pastor challenged the congregation listening to remember and then tell their Jesus story. "How has Jesus given you new life?", was her question. So I remembered, wept over and now I tell you this real Jesus story. It is one I have never told. Perhaps, I was afraid. Perhaps, I did not want to go back to that place of pain. But how can I not say what Jesus has done in my life, when he saved me and gave it back to me many, many times over.
Jesus loves lost things, sheep and people. On that sad, yet amazing day all those years ago I learned what it was like to be lost and then found. May what is lost be found for you and know beyond a shadow of a doubt... Jesus loves you too.
"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you and watch over you."
Do not be like the horse or the mule,
which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
or they will not come to you.
Many are the woes of the wicked,
but the LORD's unfailing love
surrounds the person who trusts in him."