On a cold January day in 1999, my family and I made a windy crossing of Israel’s Sea of Galilee.
During the turbulent ride, the boat stopped long enough to allow my wife Becky to read aloud the Biblical story about Jesus stilling the angry sea and calming the fear-struck disciples with the famous phrase: “Peace! Be still.”
Scripture says the wind and the waves obeyed Jesus’ command, but my wife had no such luck. My peace was coming from Dramamine.
After the boat ride, we went for a sunset walk along the windswept shore in hopes of regaining our land legs. Suddenly, our 13-year-old daughter cried out, “I’ve lost my $20!”
“Where?” my wife asked.
“There!” she exclaimed with a wave of her arm that encompassed our entire 30-minute walk. With decreasing daylight and increasing wind speed, the situation faded to hopeless.
“It’s gone now,” I said with an accusing “let-this-be-a-lesson-to-you” tone.
Tears erupted quickly.
“Dad, please, we’ve got to find it.”
“It’s pointless. It’s probably blown into the sea.”
When her siblings pledged their willingness to mount a grid search for the lost treasure, my wife suggested a limited 10-minute search. Always happy to delay bedtime, her siblings jumped on the compromise.
Between the sand and the tears, I had no idea how my daughter could see. She had saved her allowance for weeks. All day, she tightly clutched the bill, hoping to find that one special purchase. Now, it seemed hopelessly blown out to sea.
This wasn’t just a monetary value; this $20 had spiritual value to her. This money represented her hard work and preparation. She now grieved the loss of that hard work. Her anguish was something that hurt us more than it hurt her.
Jesus told a parable about a woman who had only 10 gold coins, and she lost one. The woman scoured her house, looking in every nook and cranny. When she finally found it, she called her friends and neighbors: “Celebrate with me! I found my lost coin!”
“Count on it,” Jesus said, “this is the kind of party that God throws every time one lost soul turns to God.”
Jesus was making the point that if money is so important to people that they’d mount a search for a lost $20 in a sandstorm, how much more valuable are those who are lost from God?
As we looked along the shore for the money and saw how desperately she searched, our hearts softened. I even pulled a twenty from my wallet and suggested to my wife that we plant the bill between a few rocks and coach her toward the find, just the way we’d done for her preschool Easter egg hunts.
Just as we began to think that we should stop supporting her denial and work on helping her to grieve this loss, she cried out.
“I found it!” she announced as she removed the wet bill from the lapping waves of the shore.
“Who wants hot chocolate?” my wife asked to celebrate this find. Incredulous, we all returned to the cabin to celebrate. “For what was lost, now was found.”
I discreetly returned my other $20 bill to my wallet.
“I knew we’d find it,” I told my wife. “The Bible promised we would.”
Pointing out to the sea and recalling the days when we used to call money bread, I cryptically said, “Yeah, in Ecclesiastes 11:1”
“Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again.”
She let out a groan and then said, “It’s a good thing we’re visiting the Dead Sea tomorrow.”
“Oh, why is that?” I asked.
“Because that’s where we’re going to lose you.” she promised.
Burkes is a former civilian hospital chaplain and an Air National Guard chaplain. Write firstname.lastname@example.org or visit thechaplain.net. You can also follow him on Twitter, username is “chaplain,” or on Facebook at facebook.com/norrisburkes.