by Cathy Ballantine
We have a variety of poultry at our place. Several varieties of chicken (including roosters), a duck, two varieties of Quails. My 19yo son is quite into breeding the birds in the incubator, although pretty much all of the care falls to me.
He bought a breeding pair of California Quails. They are flighty, jumpy pair. Every time I lifted the hatch on their cage to top up their food and water, I was worried they’d fly out, so I would put a towel over the top to hold them in.
One day, my technique failed and Mr Quail shot through the small opening and flew away – away across my yard, behind the shed and up a tree. There was no way I was ever going to catch him, so I sadly waved goodbye and hoped he had a nice long life.
A couple of hours later, I was leaving for work and I heard Mrs Quail calling to her mate. To my surprise, I heard him reply and I saw him on the ground near the house. I still had no idea how I would catch him, so I left him and hoped we might be able to do it later.
Mr Quail was a wily one! For two weeks he evaded our attempts to reunite him with Mrs Quail. Oh, how they wanted to be together. He’d sit on top of the cage, on the veranda railing, hang around the front of the house. She would call him and always be searching for him. Many times, I contemplated letting her go so they could be together.
I was out with my husband and I got a call from the son. They’d caught Mr Quail! He’d left the door open while he went to do something outside and when he came back upstairs, Mr Quail took fright and went into the house. It was much easier to catch him in there. Mr and Mrs Quail are reunited and safe in their cage.
There was a strong connection between Mr and Mrs Quail. He had every opportunity to fly off and make a new life, but there was something about her calling to him that kept him close to her.
Luke 15 has three beautiful stories of valuable things that were lost. In each case, there was a person who longed for the lost item to be returned, so much that they went to great lengths to find them.
Jesus tells the story of the Lost Son. He had a great desire to be free from the constraints of his life (just like the cage) and free to do his own thing. Leaving Mr Quail to survive on his own would have ultimately been a death sentence. If our cats didn’t get him, other wildlife would have. With no money, no friends and no hope, the lost son was in trouble. Deep down, the son knew that there was someone at home, longing for him, calling out for him to return.
He also tells the story of the Lost Coin. The woman who lost her valuable coin and searched the house to find it. Many nights, my son searched for Mr Quail, hoping that he would find him nestled up somewhere and would be easy to catch.
The Parable of the Lost Sheep also reflects on something lost, but valued so much that the Shepherd left the 99 other sheep to find the one. I imagine the Shepherd roaming the fields, calling to the sheep, feeling great loss and grief. The sheep responds, delighted to be safe in the arms of his Shepherd and protector.
God also longs for us to turn to him. He calls us by name, our souls long to be with him. Our connection with our creator, the one who loves us is deep inside of us. Even when we stray, God is connected to us, calling us back to the safety of his fold.
All three parables end with great rejoicing over the lost being found. In each story, the finder calls their friends and neighbours to celebrate with them. I admit it, I called some friends to tell them the good news of Mr Quail’s return to the cage.
When a lost soul is returned to God, through Jesus, the rejoicing in heaven is so much more than that of finding a quail, a sheep, a coin or a son. I can only imagine the rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. How wonderful to know that we are so loved and valued, so longed for, that there is a celebration beyond our imagination when we are found.
Cathy Ballantine has been a part of the Qld Baptist Women's Team since 2010. She works part time as State Administrator and Uniform Shop Manager for The Boys’ Brigade Qld and has a home based Admin business. Cathy is married to Matt and they have 4 children - Declan, Brenna, Jacob and Megan. They have been a part of Salisbury Baptist Church since 1999.
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