It is always very traumatic when a child is missing, especially when that child has a disability, or is fascinated with water. Both of my boys have given me a taste of that trauma on various occasions.
It is Maple Syrup Sunday in Maine... 2007. The twins are 4, and Stevie almost 2. A friend had come over to help me with the kids since my husband was away on a retreat with church. She was playing with Hope upstairs, and I was playing with Stevie and Sage downstairs. Sage kept running off to his room to repeat a song, and then he'd come back. At one point, he ran but didn’t come back.
I got that sinking feeling... The main door wasn’t shut all the way! I run outside. There is still snow on the ground. I search around our house, calling for him, but there was no answer. I go to the end of the driveway and look down the street in each direction and I panic.
I run inside to tell my friend I am leaving to find Sage, and she stays with Stevie and Hope.
I am sure that Sage went to Farrington, his favorite road, so I head that way, running, watching... So many more cars have been driving on our road today because the farm is at the end of the street. There is no Sage.
I stop and my panic meter rises to the top as I consider the real potential that my son could have been kidnapped, hit by a car, or lost in the snow with no shoes or coat...or, dead! I feel like I am going to dry heave, but I have to keep going... to find him. I knock on my neighbors door. They just had a baby. I wake them up and they come to help search for Sage with their new born baby girl.
A police car rolls up the street slowly. I call after it, I wave and yell and he doesn’t stop! I jump in my car and chase him down the road, honking my horn. Still, the police car does not stop. He goes down to the farm, on the gravel road, on the muddy mess of a path to the Sugar Shack. Finally, he stops.
I jump out of the car and call for him and finally he turns and acknowledges me. I tell him my son is missing and I need help finding him. He says he got a call that there is a little boy here, and out comes Sage, in the arms of a neighbor. It's the wife of the guy who plows our driveway every winter, but we’d never met. I am in tears, barely able to speak. Sage is safe!
The police man thought it was a little funny, and asked what was going on. I explained to him that Sage has autism. He didn’t say much after that.
It turned out that he had run up Farrington Road, after all. He must have gotten cold, or sore feet or something because he just walked into another neighbors house without knocking. There was a baby sitter there because the parents were at the sugar shack helping out. They call another neighbor and one sitter watches the kids while the other takes Sage to the Sugar Shack, thinking he must be visiting and got lost. Once at the Sugar Shack, they couldn't locate his parents so they called the police. Mrs. Parsons takes care of Sage and gives him ice cream and pancakes and washes his muddy feet. Thank God!
Stevie also has run away a couple times. Most often, I have seen him run off or can see where he is running if I missed his exit. One time though, I didn’t see it, and I had no idea which way he went. I ran out to search, not knowing which way on our street I should go first. A car drives up and the man asks me if I am looking for a little boy.
“Yes! Have you seen him?”
“He is down the street headed for North, would you like me to drive you to him?”
I didn’t even care of the dangers of getting into a strangers car at this moment, I just needed reach Stevie before he got to North Street, because people always speed on that road and it is very dangerous for a little boy. I hop in the car.
“I saw him running but I didn’t know if I should grab him, or look for his mom. I figured I’d see a frantic mom and know who it was.” he tells me.
He drives me up the road and I see Stevie right in the middle of the street running and signing to himself and flapping and as happy as can be. Relief washes over me, for just an instant.
Then, a car turns onto our street. Stevie is going up a hill and there is no way that car can see him. The car turns into the driveway at the corner, and Stevie is ok. I thought he was going to be hit by that car, but he was safe. He was safe.
The man offered to drive us home. I agreed, since I was too shaky to walk. I go to get Stevie but he won’t come with me. He is mad that I am stopping his fun. He fights with me, twisting and turning in my arms. He scratches at my face. I hold him tight and put him in the car and we are safely driven home. Thank God!
So, how about us? Sometimes we run away from God to explore and see what is out there, like Sage, not knowing the dangers that lurk around. Sometimes we run away like Stevie, determined to run and fight when called back, also not aware of the dangers. How about you? Are you running?
Jesus is. He is running after you. After all the people out there who are hurting, looking, running away and exploring. After all the people that don't know him, after all the people who are searching.
If you stop and turn around, you may see him chasing you.
If you are lost, perhaps he is right there trying to get your attention.
He knows where you are. His love for you fuels his quest for your life.
He longs to rescue you, just as we would do anything to find and rescue our children.