What Do You Mean, Lost?          


A man had a hundred sheep. One day he found only ninty-nine in the fold.


“What shall I do?” he asked his neighbor. “One of my sheep is lost.”


“What do you mean, lost?” his neighbor retorted.


“She is not in the fold,” said the man.


“Do you think that your fold is the only fold? There are many fine folds these days,” said his neighbor.


“But she is my sheep,” said the man.


“I have never heard anything so self-centered,” said his neighbor.  “Sheep do not belong to anyone. They belong to themselves. They have a right to choose their own fold, their own shepherd, and their own companions. You probably have been much too restrictive and demanding.  No wonder the sheep left. She had to leave to save her soul.”


Thoroughly miserable, the shepherd wandered into town. “I have lost a sheep,” he said to the priest.


“What do you mean, lost?” asked the priest. “Do you know what ‘found’ is? How do you know whether the sheep is lost, if you do not know where home is? Home is wherever you are. Life is existence, living, pleasure, pain, joy, and misery. These are all part of the human condition.  Be glad that she is living life to the full.”


“Will you help me find my sheep,” the man asked the principal at the school.


“I'm sorry,” said the educator. “It is against the law for us to get into religious questions like this.  Lost, found, straying--all these concepts have profound religious connotations, and we are forbidden by law to discuss them. We are not judges of the behavior that you term ‘straying.’  Would you like a condom? We have plenty.”


At home that night, the man was awake a long time. He searched his conscience about his motives, his rights, and his emotional response to the sheep that was gone. He finally fell into a fitful sleep, and dreamed of wolves, thickets, and chasms. He awoke resolved to think positive thoughts. “After all,” he said. “She never was really mine.”


There was a great restlessness among the ninety and nine.


(See Matthew 18:12,13)