When we got out of our Taxi bus after spending the week in Mexico for spring break with our children, we were annoyed and tired. It wasn’t because it was hot, it wasn’t because it was a long drive, it wasn’t because our kids were poking at each other the whole time. It was because my husband had broke his leg while surfing two days earlier, and two days before that, we had gotten some kind of stomach bug that landed us near a toilet, not the beautiful ocean.
“This trip needs to just be over. I mean, what else could go wrong?” I said while packing.
As we exited the bus, we were met with the chaos of the crowded airport — people everywhere, shouting vendors, arrivals and departures, tons of white vans bringing passengers to and from. So I gave clear instructions to the children, “Ok, we will go across this yellow crosswalk.” Except I was wrong and my husband corrected me, “No, we need to go to the other crosswalk at departures.” We quickly scurried through the designated crosswalk to escape the outdoor chaos. Once inside, it was calmer. We were moving a bit slower with my husband on crutches and my son and I taking his bags. When we got to the counter, we handed over our passports and they ticketed our luggage. “Nothing for Pruett?” the attendant asked. We looked around.
And that’s when terror set in. Our eight-year-old son Pruett was nowhere to be seen. My teenage son, Layne, and I split up and yelled for him. We ran and I screamed Pruett’s name over and over as loud as I could. I went outside and yelled into the crowd scanning back and forth. People were looking at me, still carrying on, drinking margaritas at the outdoor bar. I was screaming the loudest I had ever screamed. I ran back inside and my husband saw that I still didn’t have him. So he took off on his crutches so fast, he probably rebroke his leg.
Minutes later, Layne walked into the building holding hands with a crying Pruett and chastising him, “You have to stay near us. What were you thinking?!” But I ran to my small son as he explained. “I’m sorry. I went on the crosswalk you told me to go to. I lost you guys. I’m very sorry! I was so scared!”
“You are not in trouble! I am so glad we found you!! I said the wrong way and you didn’t hear Dad tell us the right way,” I said, wiping the tears off his face and retrieving a pen to write my phone on his arm in huge font. I was NOT letting that happen again!
As terrifying as this experience was, as heart-wrenching as it felt, it made the other bad parts of the trip melt quickly away. I was so thankful to have my kid by my side, safe again. I was never mad at Pruett for getting lost, I simply ached to find him. I searched him out while he took the wrong way, not listening, and landing in a scary position.
I think about that with God, how we think He’s mad at us. How we think He’ll be mad at us when or if we return. How sometimes we have to sit in our scary mess for a bit to understand how much we need to be rescued. How the good father waits at the gate for the prodigal son but the brother chastises him for not doing the right thing like he did.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him, and kissed him.”
This story has a sudden new meaning for me after our Mexico experience.
There’s something we say in our house, sort of like a catechism, back and forth. It goes like this:
I ask, “Is God mad at you?”
The kids answer, “No, Jesus took all of God’s wrath on my behalf.”
I say that to them because I believed for a long time that God must be mad at me for sinning, not staying on the right track, and bad behaviors. And maybe you’re wondering the same thing. But we know from Scripture that God isn’t like that towards us. He can not possibly be mad at us for our lostness. In fact, He patiently waits at the gate, scanning the pasture in anticipation that we will get tired of our pig trough and come back. And then He throws a celebration!
This is good news for the sick ones, the lost ones, the ones who just can’t seem to get it right and messed up big. God waits for you today.