One or two?

by DanWolgemuth on April 24, 2023

Three or four?

Five or six?

Yes, this past week was another trip to the optometrist.

Lens variations dropping in front of my eyes as I focus on the letters across the room. “Which is clearer?”, Dr. Bell inquired.

Feeling the pressure of a pop quiz, I did my best to rapidly consider my options.

The correct lens matters. For perspectives at a distance, and precision close up.

It was only hours before, while reading a book that was gifted to me, that I discovered that the lens I had been using to read a very familiar passage of scripture was not giving me the clarity that the story deserved, and perhaps, requires.

The book is, “The Cross & the Prodigal – Luke 15 Through the Eyes of Middle Eastern Peasants”, by Kenneth Bailey.

Luke 15. Familiar, and as I discovered, out of focus in my soul. Until I changed lenses.

Three profound stories. Three invitations for self-examination. Three opportunities to write myself into the passage.

It didn’t take long.

Story one. A lost sheep. A relentless shepherd. And the ninety-nine left in the open country.

Approximately 100 words to this story, and decades of bad lenses. Fuzzy perceptions that dulled the potential impact. Over the years I seemed to have clarity about others in the story, while I remained safely in the shadows. The blur.

Until the optometrist of my soul, the Holy Spirit, used Kenneth Bailey to drop a new lens in front of my eyes. And with this change came the clarity that I have avoided, and the implications I have neglected.

This story is my story. And while I’ve often bridged the gap to talk about the need to “pursue the lost”, I’ve done so unwittingly writing myself in as the shepherd. The courageous and sacrificial pursuer.

And I’m not.

This story is not only written for me (as a Pharisee), it’s written about me (as either a lost sheep, or a member of the ninety-nine).

Yes, I am a lost sheep… and as Bailey so powerfully puts it, “Repentance is not a work that earns our rescue. Rather, the sinner accepts being found.”

The pursuing, the heroics, the sacrifice and courage are solely the role of the shepherd… and I am not the shepherd. My role, singularly, is to accept being found, and as such, to humbly acknowledge both the gravity of my lostness, and the vastness of the shepherd’s love.

And yes, I am also a member of the ninety-nine, and as such, Bailey inserts a fresh lens into my vision of the story… “it is the shepherd’s willingness to go after the one that gives the ninety-nine their real security. If one is sacrificed in the name of the larger good of the group, then each individual in the group is insecure, knowing that he or she too is of little value. When the shepherd pays a high price to find the one, he thereby offers the profoundest security to the many.”

Focus. Clarity. Insight that had eluded me… until a trip to the optometrist.

There is a shepherd. And he alone is good.

The lost he pursues. Relentlessly. Sacrificially. Diligently.

The ninety-nine, he reassures by this pursuit. Indeed, the Lord is my Shepherd… I can see this more clearly now.

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