In Luke 15, Jesus tells three parables about “lost” things—a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son. In each story, the loss isn’t a total loss. The shepherd still has ninety-nine sheep safe and sound. The woman still has nine coins accounted for. And the father has another son still at home. Yet the shepherd, woman, and father cannot rest until that which was lost is recovered. When it is, they throw a huge party with their friends to celebrate!
In these parables, the thing that is lost reveals the value of what is not lost. The passionate search and passionate celebration tell us how precious that sheep, coin, and son were.
Somewhere along the way in my family, and in Sheri’s, some things were lost. We don’t fully know when or how they were lost, and for a long time, we didn’t realize they were lost. It was only when we were found by God and brought into a community of believers whose marriages, families, and friendships looked very different than the ones we’d grown up with that we started to realize the truth.
Basically, we realized that the box of relational tools we’d been handed by our parents and families was a box of broken tools. We were both the recipients of a legacy of multiple broken marriages and family breakdown. Somewhere along the line, most of the tools required to build a strong, loving connection that would last a lifetime were destroyed or forgotten.
Yet we saw that something better was possible for us than repeating the old cycles of anxiety, self-protection, irresponsibility, powerlessness, unresolved conflict, and disconnection. We wanted to keep our promises to love and protect one another until death. We wanted to live in a covenant of love and safety, a place that invited our best selves to show up and be seen and known. We wanted to leave a better relational legacy—not only for our kids and grandkids, but for everyone our lives touched.
And so we went searching for what was lost. It was a long quest. It took us over a decade to seek and find the relational tools we needed to totally transform our thinking, behavior, and the culture and quality of connection in our marriage, family, and relationships.
The only thing I think we can reasonably take credit for on that quest was simply that we didn’t quit. There were so many moments of pain, frustration, and discouragement when that was all-too tempting—when it seemed that that we would never find a way out of the old cycles and strongholds, when we weren’t going to make it. Yet we refused to throw in the towel and walk away. We didn’t know if we would ever get where we were trying to go, but we knew that quitting would only be the final surrender to the broken past we were trying to escape.
Of course, even refusing to quit isn’t something we did in our own strength. God and the people He had put around us wouldn’t let us quit. They kept calling us higher, calling us to hope and believe that the dream of healthy family we were running after would come true.
Again, it didn’t happen overnight. But year after year, we continued to seek God and allow Him to confront and deal with the gaps in our relational toolbox, healing us from the past and equipping us to do things we’d never seen modeled for us growing up—building emotional awareness and honesty, confronting bravely and respectfully, exchanging healthy feedback, cleaning up our messes with genuine repentance and forgiveness, speaking one another’s love languages, championing each other’s dreams, and much more.
It’s hard to describe what it’s been like to live with a healthy relational toolbox—and the skills to use them effectively. It’s . . . well, I imagine it’s something like what that shepherd and woman and father felt when the precious thing they’d lost came back to them—utter joy and gratitude. There’s a value and appreciation for what we have that I don’t think we would have if these things had never been lost and found again.
It’s also something like the pride and pleasure of a farmer who took a field full of thorns and toxic plants, painstakingly dug them out, fertilized and replanted the ground, and finally began to enjoy a harvest of delicious fruits and vegetables. For the last couple decades, we’ve been feasting on the fruit of healthy connection—joy, peace, love, safety, and hope. Wow, they taste good.
But here’s what happens when God restores what is lost in your life, and you begin to live in that restoration. You can’t keep it to yourself. That toolbox, those skills, and the garden you grew with them aren’t just for you. You now have the privilege of partnering with God to restore what is lost in the lives of others.
This is the message that burns in our hearts. When we look around the world we live in, we see that what was lost in our own lives is lost in so many others. Most people in our society today are children of divorce. Family and relational breakdown has affected all of us to some degree. But no matter your history of broken tools and broken relationships, you can build a new future and leave a better legacy for your spouse, children, grandchildren, friends, coworkers, and communities.
God is the great restorer, the filler of the gaps. He is able to pick up the pieces and bring healing like no one else—healing that doesn’t just get you back to functionality, but to transformation into a person who can help bring healing to others. If you’ve been on the quest to recover what’s been lost in your life and relationships and feel weary waiting for breakthrough, I urge you—don’t give up! Keep seeking, asking, and knocking. The Father is not holding out on you—He is seeking your restoration even more passionately, despite what you see, and will bring it about. What He did for us, He will do for you.
Ultimately, God’s heart for this generation affected by the breakdown of families and relationships is that we would become the family and relationship restorers. Because when you lose something, feel the loss of it, and fight to get it back, you see it, treasure it, and celebrate it for what it is.
P.S. Please join Sheri and me, our daughter and son-in-law Brittney and Ben Serpell, and a bunch of our friends at our Loving on Purpose conference in January! We will be gathering for three days to feast on the good news of God’s restoration in people’s lives and relationships, and to equip you with the tools that have transformed our lives. You don’t want to miss this powerful time together! The discount ends November 30th! Click here to get the info and buy tickets.