By Vince Antonucci
When our kids were younger my wife and I took them to a big waterpark. Our son was 5 and our daughter was almost 3, so we spent the day in the kiddie pools. Each pool had slides and all kinds of fun stuff. We played in one for a while, then walked about 100 yards to a second kiddie pool where we let the kids splash around. We then walked another 100 yards to the next one, where my kids repeatedly slid down one big slide. My wife walked over to the other side of the pool to a big mushroom umbrella shower. My son, Dawson, came down the slide and asked, “Where’s Mommy?”
“She’s over by the mushroom water shower umbrella thingy,” I answered.
“Can I go get her?” he asked.
“Sure,” I told him, “Go ahead.”
About five minutes later I grabbed my daughter and said, “Let’s go get Mommy and Dawson.”
When we got to the shower, my wife was still under it . . . all by herself.
“What are you talking about?” she asked.
“I sent him over about five minutes ago.”
“I haven’t seen him.”
I started looking all over the kiddie pool area. I didn’t see him.
I thought, Don’t freak out, Vince, he’s here. Umm, he’s wearing a blue bathing suit.
I looked for a blue bathing suit.
OK. It’s OK. Look for light brown hair.
Maybe he’s in one of the slides.
I yelled, “Dawson!”
It had now been about 10 minutes since we had seen our son. I continued to look. Soon it was 15 minutes. I thought, I am never going to see my son again. I’m never going to hold my son again. I started totally freaking out.
The kiddie pool area was sort of in a valley. I ran up the stairs to the sidewalk so I could have a better view of the whole pool. I looked down. He was not there.
My heart was racing. My throat clenched up. My head was pounding. I looked again. He was not there.
Blue bathing suit? No. Light brown hair? No. On one of the slides? No.
I looked up the sidewalk to my left. No. I looked down the sidewalk to my right. No. I looked in the pool again. No. It had now been close to 20 minutes.
I again looked to my left, and far down the path I saw what appeared to be a light brown-haired kid weaving between people. I couldn’t see the color of the bathing suit. I called out, “Dawson? Dawson?”
Then I yelled, “DAWSON!”
Finally, the boy looked up, and it was my son.
He saw me, and his face went white. We ran toward each other and he dove into my arms, crying. I asked, “Where were you?”
“I went to find Mommy,” he said. “I thought she was at the pool we were at before.”
“You went all the way to the other pool by yourself?” I asked.
I held him . . . and held him . . . and held him. And I understood, as I thought of those moments when I wondered if I’d ever see or hold my son again, how God must feel about all of his children who have wandered away from him.
I could relate to God’s cries in Jeremiah 4:19, “Oh, my anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain. Oh, the agony of my heart! My heart pounds within me.” What was tormenting God? His heart was broken for his lost children who had wandered far away from him.
That’s why Jesus came—he was on an all-out search and rescue mission to bring God’s lost children home.
As I held my son tightly, it was as if we were the only ones on that crowded waterpark sidewalk. For a moment all the yelps and shouts and laughter were hushed, and all the commotion was calmed. My torment turned to joy in finding my lost son.
It reminded me of my mission to help God’s lost children get back into his arms.
Vince Antonucci serves as lead pastor at Verve, “a church for people who don’t like church,” in Las Vegas. He is the author of I Became a Christian and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt, Guerrilla Lovers, Renegade: Your Faith Isn’t Meant to Be Safe, and God for the Rest of Us. He regularly speaks at and consults with churches and blogs at http://vinceantonucci.com.