by Marilou Schnaderbeck
A couple of years ago I was reeling from a monstrous failure on my part. Oh…to even begin to remember how I felt then makes my heart ache… back in that place of spiritual destitution, hopelessness, and thinking because I did this to myself I deserved nothing more (which is true). I was in such a wretched state; a pit of despair. Although I have never had a good self-image, this failure did NOTHING to help, because what self-worth I did have was approval-based, and now that I had done this horrible thing, well… I was worth-less…I was nothing…I had no ones approval. In my mind, I had slumped from all ‘regular society’ and would never again walk among the living, the respected, the purposed, the loved …
I thought a lot about those I had hurt and knew God loved them-they were the victims and they deserved and greatly needed a lot of comfort, strength and love. I thought about those who had not succumbed to such a sin as I had committed and knew God loved them-they were obedient, they were saints. I could think of pretty much anyone else and believe they were loved by God-but not me. There was no reason for Him to love me. I wasn’t worth loving. I wasn’t even worth noticing. I didn’t want to live.
In my Bible reading one day, specifically Matthew 18, I came across the story of the shepherd who had 100 sheep, one of which wandered off. Oh my goodness, I had heard this story so many times growing up, usually with the aid of a pale blue flannel graph. But, as I read the story this time (minus the flannel graph and adding instead Matthew Henry’s Commentary) it became one of my spiritual marker moments. Verse 12 & 13 read “…If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that [one] sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray.” Growing up I believed this story pertained only to lost souls – those who have not given their hearts and lives to Jesus Christ. If you are reading Luke’s account of this parable, found in the beginning of chapter 15 that is the case; however M.Henry states that Matthew’s account relates to fallen saints – those who are already saved but who have fallen/failed/sinned. When I read this, I pictured God running through His flock of 99 (the sheep that didn’t stray, who were obedient, who were even hurt by me) and coming after me because He loved me and knew I was in danger. And when He found me and pulled me from what snared me, He carried me back to the safety of His pasture and He rejoiced! Even now, remembering how I felt when I read that brings emotions quickly to the surface (and rolling down my cheeks). I did nothing to deserve such love; in fact I was sinning when He showed great love by leaving the flock to come and get me. M. Henry rephrased Matthew 18:13 by saying “Greater joy there is in heaven for returning sinners than for remaining angels.”
Thank you Father for loving me so significantly and for the hope you gave me that day. You are good, and gracious. I deserve hell, but instead you love me with wild abandonment. I don’t understand the depth, width, height of your love, but I will cling to it. You are my Savior, my Strength, my Shepherd. I love you. Amen.