We have been getting lots of rain here in southwestern Pennsylvania. In June it rained almost every day and we were getting a little tired of rain. Last week we had a beautiful day and I yearned to get out hiking in it. But I had blog posts to write and decided I would stay disciplined until I was done. About 3 in the afternoon I put the final period on the last post for the week. Then I pulled on my hiking boots ready to head out the door.
“It is going to rain,” Tom warned me. I looked up at the blue sky and saw one dark cloud on the edge of my little piece of sky. My phone dinged with a weather update: light rain expected. I decided to walk anyway. I told Tom I didn’t mind getting wet if it was only going to be a light shower. I was only heading around the Civilian Conservation Corps Picnic Area. Two miles. Easy.
So I headed out at a brisk pace with my earbuds plugged into iTunes on my cellphone. I always sing when I am hiking by myself because we have black bears in the area. I headed up the hill and started around the loop to the picnic area. When I got to the creek at the bottom of the hill, it started to rain. By the time I reached the parking lot for the picnic area, it was raining harder, so I decided to take shelter in one of the picnic pavilions.
The CCC picnic area was built in the 1930’s and all the shelters are from that era without any updates. They are rotting away in the woods and it is hard to tell where the woods ends and the wood and stone picnic shelters begin. The roofs of the shelters are more moss than shingle at this point. But I found a dry spot at a picnic table and prepared to wait out the rain.
By this time the rain was pouring down, buckets of rain at a time. And then the thunder and lightning started. Thunder really echoes in the hills and sounds much louder than it does in a more open area. Lighting struck around me and I could feel my skin prickling from the electricity in the air. I was a little nervous, but felt that I was safe enough in the shelter as long as no bears decided to join me.
I thought the rain would be over soon, after all my phone weather alert had said a brief shower. But it didn’t seem to be letting up. And there was enough thunder and lightning still around me that I didn’t want to chance walking the mile back to the RV. At the base of the hill, of course, I didn’t have any cellphone service so I couldn’t call Tom to tell him where I was.
I had been sitting in the shelter for about 20 minutes enjoying the rain and the green and my music, wondering how long the storm would last. Then I heard a welcome sound: the distinctive diesel engine of our truck. Through the trees I could see Tom inching the truck along the road, obviously looking for me. With a slight break in the rain, I ran from the shelter to the parking lot and got there just as Tom pulled in. I jumped in the truck as the skies opened up again. The storm lasted three hours, with wave after wave of lightning, thunder, and heavy rain. I would have been in that shelter a long time but Tom drove around that loop twice until he found me and brought me home safe.
In just the same way, God searches for us. God knows we live in a world full of beauty, surprises, and dangers. We can get in trouble in all kinds of ways. We can be lost and scared or wandering thoughtlessly by ourselves. But God never leaves us alone. God searches for us until he brings us safely home. God is not content until every one of his children is safely within his care.
Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ Luke 15:3-6