It is somewhere after five A.M., and my twin daughters and I lay in a puzzle of arms and legs in the old blue arm-chair. They will not give up this nursing session, and I’m never in the mood to force them. Not yet. Soon enough they won’t tolerate one laying on the other, wrapped in and under the warmth of my arms.
We sit in the chair long after they finish. I drift in between sleep and prayer, rhythmically rocking with one toe. Such movement for so little force. Lift, drop. Lift, drop. God, protect my little ones. Lift, drop. Give us patience with one another. Lift, drop.
My thoughts meander to a recently read article about the state of the missing Nigerian girls. 276 faceless names. Probably more. Girls whose mothers used to mumble the same prayers in the blue state of half-wakefulness.
God, please bring them home.
Lift, drop. Lift, drop.
And the media argues about publishing names and using images for the stolen girls, and leaders in Nigeria can’t seem to find the right words. It’s almost been a month, but no one knows the exact number of the missing and this is a source of contention. Identity and misrepresentation muddy the search waters. Meanwhile, the world looks on with interest as more and more people post #bringbackourgirls into the rippling tide of their social media oceans.
This too becomes controversy, arguing for the sake of arguing. Whether it’s pressure on the government, ransom offers, troops, hashtags, awareness – no one can say what, or who, or how the stolen girls will come running into the shaking arms of their loved ones. What’s important is that they do.
More than likely, the grieving mothers and fathers of the stolen girls know little about the interest the world has taken in their plight. They do not see the maelstrom gathering on our screens. Perhaps they journeyed to the capital to be a part of a protest, fists and arms and voices finally having a place to let out frustration. Anger at the empty bed in their house. A daughter lost in the unknown, a place where possibilities unraveled into tangles of fear.
And then they went home. Waited. Ached. Searched with other parents. Compared notes. Spent long nights by flickering light. Spent longer days wanting every movement, every sound to be a daughter reappeared.
A video surfaced today. It is purported to be a group of the missing girls, now dressed in black hijabs. Everyone wants to talk about how the girls have been forced to become Muslims, but all I want to do is stare at those beautiful faces – faces that are moving, eyes that are alive.
They are not lost. They just haven’t been found.
So I talk to God as I shake out the wrinkles in my laundry, piling shirts and prayer requests in the old blue basket. The girls stay in my thoughts as I feed my own daughters pancakes for lunch. As I sweep the scuffed up kitchen floor. And then God reminds me of something.
He is many things. Creator. Healer. Father. Shepherd.
And I have been that sheep, lost and found, carried and close. I know the reality of still waters. Of being restored.
I know that shepherds always care for their lost.
11 “‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. 12 As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. 13 I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. 14 I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. 16 I will search for the lost and bring back the strays.– Ezekiel 34: 11-16 (emphasis added.)
I know I can trust this Shepherd to be at work, searching out His scattered. I can keep praying, lift and dropping my thoughts with dogged regularity. And if I ever have a chance to be half way presentable after my littles go to bed, I’ll post my own hashtag pic. Until then, these words will do just fine.