God doesn’t see us as the world does. He sees into our hearts. He knows exactly who we are. Returning to Him is all He’s ever wanted for us. That’s why He leaves the ninety-nine to go after the one. I was that one. 

The Parable of the Lost Sheep, found in both the Gospel of Matthew and in the Gospel of Luke, tells the story of a shepherd who leaves his flock of 99 sheep to go in search of the one that is lost. When the lost sheep is found, he rejoices and shares the good news with his friends.

I’ve always loved this story, but today, it means so much more to me then than it once did.

I was that lost sheep. For a very long time, I wondered lost in the wilderness. My wilderness was filled with the darkness and destruction of alcoholism, an eating disorder, selfish desires, and falling short of God’s commandments again and again. For nearly three decades I suffered. In my guilt and shame I truly believed I was not worthy of being found.

Yet, just like the shepherd in the parable, who did not walk away from even one of his flock, God did not walk away from me.

In retrospect, I know now that He was always there. I simply failed to hear Him when He called or to acknowledge Him when I did. It was my own shame and guilt that caused me to hide. It was my unwillingness to change and my fear of what would happen if I did that kept me locked in the prison I existed in.

Towards the end, I honestly believed I would not survive. I was so physically depleted and so mentally exhausted that I just gave up.

There truly does exist a moment when you’re so immersed in your own suffering that you don’t see anything beyond it or any way out of it. I’d reached that moment. I was surrounded on all side by darkness and just wanted to lay down and sleep forever.

And that’s where God found me.

Because that’s the beautiful, merciful nature of our loving God. He seeks us out no matter where we are, what we have done, or how long He’s waited.

When the moment came, and I finally heard His voice, everything changed. In that moment, I surrendered. I placed my life, my body and mind, my spirit, everything I was and would ever be into God’s hands.

JN Fenwick (© 2018-2023) | mothjournal14 | Image from Adobe Stock Images | Licensed for use | Music: Games of Hunger from The Royalty Free Soundtrack Library, Vol. 3

For years I knew darkness,

so lost in despair,

that I didn’t hear Him calling,

though I knew He was there.

Consumed by my failures,

drowning in my shame,

I failed to acknowledge,

when He called me by name.

So afraid to relinquish,

who I thought I was,

I existed behind the fortress,

of my coveted walls.

Chained body and soul,

in a prison of defeat,

believing I wasn’t worthy,

to lay it down at His feet.

“My child,” He gently whispered,

as soft as the wind,

“I’m here when you’re ready,

for your life to begin.

The life that I promised,

when I sent you my Son,

to purchase your salvation,

with His own perfect blood.

The moment you seek Me,

with all of your heart,

My Spirit will lead you,

safely out of the dark. 

The chains that are holding you,

My love will erase,

your soul will be washed clean,

in the depths of My grace.”

Weary and broken,

I fell to my knees,

and surrendered it all,

to His presence in me.

The moment I sought Him,

He stretched out His hand,

released me from the bondage,

I’d been living in.

Every barrier was broken,

every lie holding me,

was torn from its foothold,

setting me free.

He lifted and carried me,

when I could not rise.

He quieted the chaos,

imprisoning my mind.

The waters grew calmer,

as we drew near the shore. 

He led me from the wreckage,

to an unopened door.

“Do not be afraid, child,

I am the first and the last,

I’ll never forsake you,

let go of your past.

The peace that I’m offering,

surpasses all you have known,

let it cover your iniquities, 

and heal all your wounds.

My strength is sufficient

My grace will not end.

My love for you, eternal, 

My faithfulness unchanged.

Go from this place, now,

you’ve been rescued from death,

walk boldly in My light,

let your soul be at rest.”

The moment I passed through,

the door He had opened,

His presence washed over me,

healing all that was broken.

And just as He promised,

He remains close to me,

fortifying my spirit from,

His endless well of peace.

JN Fenwick (© 2018-2023) | mothjournal14 

So yes, today I’m celebrating five years of recovery. I’m celebrating five years of deliverance from darkness. Five years of forgiveness and healing for my family. Five years of growing together in love and in faith.

Most of all, I’m celebrating five years of life. Five years of walking with God and feeling His presence alive within me. It is by His grace, not mine. By His strength, not mine. By His love for me, that I am here. 

He patiently waited, fulfilled His promises, and He continues to grant me unending mercy. That is who He is and who He will always be. 

He came after me and lifted me from the depths. He rejoices in my return. I am His and He will never let me go.

What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Luke 15:3-7