“Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she finds it? And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbors together, saying, rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” (Luke 15:8-10)
A dear friend of mine flew to Arizona to visit her seventy-five-year-old brother for the last time. He was terminally ill. What made the situation more heart-breaking was the fact that he was afraid to die. He had transgressed before the Lord and fallen away from his faith while in his twenties. Except for this one sister, his entire family had abandoned him because of it. For over fifty years he had been estranged from them. During this time, his guilt and pain caused him to believe God could not love him again. After all, if his family couldn’t forgive him, why would God? And so, he was afraid to die.
My heart broke when I heard her tell me this story. Her intention was to bring peace to his bedside, to show her unwavering love, and to remind him of things he once knew; that God loved him and had forgiven him. He was happy to see her. He was touched by her words. But she told me the pain of the estrangement had taken a great toll on his soul. He was not convinced of God’s love. He died afraid of meeting his maker.
Who is the lost coin?
For the longest time I read the parable of the lost coin, convinced that the focus was on the coin, or whatever it was that was lost. I knew Jesus used the parable so that his disciples, both of olden times and those who strive to follow him today, could relate to its meaning. Losing something of value can cause a great burden in our lives. Maybe a coin in our day means little, but a larger sum of money that is misplaced can cause financial ruin. Remember George Bailey from the Frank Capra movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life?” When eight thousand dollars went missing, it would cost him his livelihood. He was in such fear of the future; he wanted to end his own life. In the parable, the lost coin can symbolize other more precious things of value to us. Think of what it means to a little family if their dog is lost on a chilly winter night. Think of a young family whose five-year-old child wanders away in an open market in the streets of a foreign country. Think of a teenage runaway who is afraid to come home after a heated argument with his father. We can all relate to the pain and sorrow of losing items of value and people we love. Indeed, if we’ve ever had a disagreement with a family member, aren’t they temporarily lost from us?
Who lost the coin?
At first glance, the focus of this story is on the coin. But the coin didn’t pick itself up and roll away to a shadowy corner by its own power. It’s an inanimate object and doesn’t have the ability to do this. Therefore, the story is not about “the prodigal coin”. I think the Savior used the coin in this story to help us see where the greater focus should be—on the person who lost the coin. In other words, if we turn our hearts inward and see ourselves in this story as someone who is in jeopardy of losing something or someone of value, we gain a greater benefit from its teachings. It’s not about the coin. It’s about the owner.
How do we treat the people we love?
Everyone in life goes through heartache with family. It’s part of living. The true question is how do we resolve the issues of family disagreements? We all know of families who have created wedges in their relationships that run so deep, they do not even remember what the original fight was about. We also know families who have a “healthy fight” now and then, quick to forgive and forget. Still, there are some who seem never to fight, or at least they never let an argument explode like the lid off a pressure cooker. What are the factors that differentiate between the three? Foolish pride, genuine forgiveness, and godly love. Or more plainly, turning our hearts away from ourselves and seeing situations with an eye single to God.
From pride to godly love
“If your eye be single to my glory your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you.” (D&C 88:67) I’ve found in life that the pursuit of godliness is an eternal endeavor, where we are in constant check and re-check of our intentions, our actions, and the condition of our heart. There will be times when we are so in tune with the love of our Heavenly Father, no family disagreement can bother us. There are other times when our defenses are down, our weaknesses take over, and we are extra-sensitive to life’s little misunderstandings. The road from foolish pride to godly love is a road we become familiar with as it is naturally traveled down as often as the sun rises and sets. I’m grateful that a loving Heavenly Father knew this about us and provided a way for us to face this road tirelessly, through the spiritual healing power of Jesus Christ. Because he overcame sin, we can too. We can repent of our anger and negative emotions. We can forgive family members of their mistakes as Christ has forgiven us. And we can see them with renewed eyes—ones that understand like the Savior does with a pureness of heart and a love that is unblemished by grudges and pain.
When the coin seems to roll on its own
While the parable is about the owner of the coin, there are times when the coin does seem to roll on its own away from us, causing a state of family discontent. I understand perfectly how the wrongful actions of others can lead to justification of our own anger toward them. It is human to feel sorrow, grief, and pain. But again, what we do with those emotions is key to becoming godly. The widow searched diligently and with a heavy heart to find the lost coin. She did not wait for the coin to come rolling back to her. Nor did she judge it as being of less value than the rest of her coins. So too should we focus on our part; combing through our own battered heart, clearing out the pride, filling it with the light of forgiveness and love, thus allowing our family to feel safe when they are ready to return in full circle with us and the Lord.
Let us never allow a loved one to be afraid to die
“Behold he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.” (D&C 58:42)
I wonder how many people in my life would be willing to come closer to the Savior if they saw in me a heart full of love, forgiveness, and acceptance of them, despite their estrangement from the Lord. I wonder how many people would feel more willing to reconnect with the Savior if they saw in my countenance the unconditional love He has for them. I know our Father in Heaven has his own time table when it comes to the salvation of mankind. I know he is all-kind, all-wise, and all-loving. If he can forgive my loved ones their mistakes, then I should be able to as well. I may need a heavenly boost to do this now and then, but luckily it’s always available. And when my heart is single to His glory, His light will shine through me. Maybe that is how the widow found the coin—maybe she was so filled with light, it could not remain hidden in the shadows.