When I was in high school about a hundred and fifty years ago, sterling silver charm bracelets were all the rage. Unlike the Pandora bracelets and their knock-offs that are so popular today, these bracelets were loose and clunky and noisy. But they were the thing to wear.
I didn’t own one, but there was this boy. He and I were sort of an item, and I guess he wanted to impress me with an abundance of Christmas gifts that year. One of those gifts was the coveted charm bracelet, and he had chosen one charm to go with it. It featured two red hearts and the word “Sweetheart.” Naturally, I loved it. At first I was determined to not collect more charms but to keep only that one, making for a daintier piece of jewelry.
Then the unthinkable happened. I looked down at my bracelet one day and the charm was missing! I back-tracked everywhere I’d been that day, to no avail. My sweetheart charm was gone.
When my dad returned from a trip to Texas with a charm for me that looked like a little map of the state, I put that on my bracelet and had it soldered on so as not to lose it. Between then and graduation, I received nine more charms: a tiny typewriter for finishing first in a typing contest (an especially meaningful keepsake now that I’m a writer), a lobster from a friend in Nova Scotia, a graduation cap, a miniature diploma, a birthday charm, and another with my initial. Each time I received a new charm, I’d make sure to pay the extra to have a jeweller solder it in place. I’d learned my lesson!
Then one day, when my brother-in-law was cleaning out his car, what did he find but my Sweetheart charm between the seats. I couldn’t believe it! If you’ve ever rediscovered something precious you thought was hopelessly lost, you understand how I felt.
Too clunky to wear, my charm bracelet has spent most of the last four decades in a jewelry box on my dresser. When our kids were little, they were sometimes curious enough for me to pull it out, tell them the stories behind each charm and about the sweet boy who gave me the bracelet.
Jesus told three stories about lost items—a coin, a sheep, and a son. In each story, the lost thing is highly valued and missed. No stone is left unturned. The search does not end until the lost is found, safe and secure. Then a celebratory party breaks out!
He told these stories to help us understand we are precious to him. When we wander off, he pursues us relentlessly and lovingly. And when we return to him, he rejoices. Isn’t it sweet to know someone feels that way about you? He made it pretty clear that this was his main purpose when he said, “For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” (Luke 19:10).
Of all the gifts I received that particular Christmas, the charm bracelet is the only one I still have. That boy who wanted to impress me with presents? It must have worked. Forty Christmases, three children, and four grandchildren later, we are still an item.