The story was that this woman had been widowed for over a decade and a half. Shortly after her husband died she lost her wedding ring. She searched her house high and low but never found it. On this particular day, as she was gardening and digging up the soil to plant some flowers, she struck something. She dug her hands into the dirt, thinking it was a small stone, but saw something glistening. To her incredulous surprise, it was her wedding ring, lost to her for fifteen years. She grabbed it, held it high, and let out such a scream of utter delight that it brought all her neighbors out of their homes to see what had happened. A flood of memories bathed her soul. The ring brought back the feeling of decades of happiness spent with the one to whom she had committed her life, and she was filled with a joy that she could not contain.What a great story! Can you imagine the feelings of this woman who had spent fifteen lonely years without her husband, to the point that some of the treasures of that relationship were lost in the recesses of her memory? It must have been like that vast separation was instantly removed and the one she had shared much of her life with was back beside her.
I can't help but be reminded of Luke 15 as I read that story. Luke 15 is a series of three stories told by Jesus about losing things: a lost sheep, a lost coin, a lost son. Jesus told those parables to illustrate how much our heavenly Father loves us. Even though we may feel like just another sheep in the fold, or just another coin in the purse, we matter to God. He stands with His arms outstretched, watching the horizon intently for our return to Him.
But the story of the lost ring puts the shoe on the other foot (or perhaps the ring on the other finger). It's the warning given to the church at Ephesus in Revelation -- repent and come back to your First Love. One of the saddest things that happens to Christians is that we get used to the Gospel. The stories become tales we've heard before. The worship becomes blind ritual. The relationship becomes stale and cold on the outside like a loaf of bread left outdoors on a November evening. All we have are our memories of how being a Christian used to feel, and those are buried so deep that they seem almost foreign to us. "How immature I used to be," we think, "back before I knew better."
Then something happens. Usually it's something traumatic like an accident or a illness. Sometimes it's just God getting our attention through a sermon or a poem or an old picture that has been stashed away for too long. But we hit on something. We may first think it nothing but a common occurance, but when we examine it closer. . . it's like precious gold! We realize that we have left God somewhere only to have Him buried in our lives by work, finances, selfishness, cars, children, and our pet sins that have accumulated over time. But in rediscovering our First Love, utter delight and pure joy flood our souls.
If you've never felt the overwhelming joy of rediscovering God, I invite you to start digging again. And if you, like me, have lived this time of joyfully finding God once again, don't allow the stuff of the world to cover Him up again. Take that ring. Shine it. Clean the precious stone set on top. Wear it proudly and let the love flow to your very soul. And never abandon your First Love again.