Though I would not describe my family of origin as “hoarders,” we were definitely savers. We saved grocery bags—paper or plastic—for some future use. We saved the boxes that new items came in, rarely because we might repack the items in them, but because the boxes, “might be useful someday.” Shampoo and ketchup bottles were left upside down until the very last drop was used. We saved half-burned birthday candles for the next celebration, margarine cups for leftovers, and even half-servings of leftovers for some future smorgasbord supper where they’d be matched with other fractions of servings. And old habits die hard; I still do just about every one of these things!
While on the one hand, such “frugality” might be both economically and environmentally astute, it can also lead to holding on to more than I need to. It’s definitely not worth a marital spat if the soap container found its way to the recycling bin after several days of airy squeezes, even if there was still a little bit left. Sometimes, it’s ok to let go!
Not all decisions are as laughable as the soap bottle situation, though. It can be quite difficult to know when to let go and when to hold on. And as Jesus’s familiar parables reveal, in God’s economy, the logic isn’t always obvious.
When Jesus asks, “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?” the real answer from real shepherds would have been, “none of us!” No one leaves 99% of their livestock unattended in the wilderness to go find one lost one who couldn’t figure out how to stay with the herd. It’s a great risk of time and resources.
But, Jesus says, that’s how it is with God; there will be more joy over one lost one who repents than over 99 righteous ones who have no need of change. God would go after the little, lost lamb.
This Sunday, in addition to reading the familiar gospel parables, we’ll also read the children’s book The Old Truck by Jarrett Pumphrey and Jerome Pumphrey. In the book, we meet a young farmer who decides to treasure what was thought to be long lost. It’s not an easy or short journey, but it may help us to understand the persistence with which God seeks us out again and again, no matter how forgotten we think we are.
May God grace us with the wisdom to know when to let go and when to hold on.