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January 11, 2008


(Original story here.)

(Thanks to Jeff Meyerson)


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It takes a village
to lose a child.

mr. moron?

Since this story is related and will potentially be used in a sermon on Sunday, I post this journal entry without additional comment, except that the statute of limitations has passed.


Any anecdote that starts with the phrases "What you have to understand" or "Keep in mind" or "Changing the names won't make me any more innocent" is pretty much an admission of guilt. Instead, I'll start of with a scripture reference.

In Luke 2:43, there is a passage that makes reference to Jesus being, uhm, misplaced -- Yeah, that's the word, misplaced -- by His family in the process of coming back from Jerusalem after Passover.

I can relate to some degree to Joseph.

A few years ago, I misplaced a child at church. She wasn't truly lost or imperiled. Just misplaced.

Our third child caused a great shift in our family as my wife and I had to go from man-to-man coverage to a two-deep zone. The youngest had trouble sleeping and breathing at the same time, a situation that led both of us as parents to be sleep-deprived for much longer than we were with our first two children. My in-laws had a sleep over for our older two children and brought them to church. One of our oldest's friends asked if he could come to church -- an answer that will always be 'yes' for us -- and didn't have a problem with meeting up with our oldest in Wheaton -- a solid half hour from our home.

Bring one to church. Bring three back. Bring one to church. Bring three back. It sounds so simple, doesn't it?

Our second car was in particularly poor condition. A quart of transmission fluid would stay in the system long enough to permit driving to the train station and back, but not much further. Any spillage of the fluid would make for a spectacular show of black smoke from under the hood once the engine heated up. For all intents and purposes, we were a one car family. My wife was not particularly interested in engaging in a two or three quart quest to get to church. Since I had a child in the car and the fire extinguisher was used up, the van was the only vehicle option available to us.

Returning in the healthier vehicle from the friend's house to our home, I came back to the door to find my wife covered in fresh baby spit up. The baby's outfit was relatively easy to replace. My wife was not so easy to clean up on short notice. One of us was destined to stay home with a child and attempt to listen to morning worship services on WETN -- broadcasting to most of the Wheaton College campus on a good day -- and the first shift responsibility fell to my wife.

Adding to the cacophony was our schedule. I was supposed to be on the platform for an announcement in both services and my wife was supposed to meet with a committee immediately after church. We would have to drive a total of two hours to go back and forth twice, coordinating with pinpoint precision events that were out of our control.

I dropped off my son's friend at church, made the first service announcement and sat nervously waiting to make the second service announcement. I completed the announcement and retrieved my son and his friend. On the way to pick up my daughter on my way out the door to race back home, I was waylaid by a task that cut into the margin of error.

Racing the boys to the car, I set off for home. At the half way point, I finally listened to the still, small voice. I had left my pre-K daughter at church. Sunday School was still going on, but I couldn't get back to church and drop off the friend and get the functioning car to my wife for her meeting.

At this point, I uttered the immortal words, "I left (name removed to protect the guilty) at church."
My son added in the helpful phrase, "Dad, you are a dead man." He could have pointed out the incredibly useful but out of context Phil 3:14 "I press on toward the goal" or some other passage that might assuage my guilt. I suspect that he realized that I was on my own this time.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch. Or church.

My mother-in-law knew that we had a weird schedule that morning. As she walked through the children's Sunday School area, she saw my daughter. Picking her up granddaughter before anyone outside the family was too much the wiser about my failure, she brought the misplaced child with her to the meeting that was going to be attended by my wife. In a moment of true grace, my mother-in-law did not attribute the situation to anything except a miscommunication.

I had already informed my wife of my error by cell phone. Deciding to "interact" later, my wife handed me the sick youngest child and raced to church. My daughter was reunited with a responsible parent and everything ended up OK at the end of the event.

To this day, however, each of the kids keeps an eye on me in the narthex. My daughter claims that her slow awakening and preparation on Sundays is linked to the event. I'm not so sure, but I'm not exactly in a position where I can take the high road in the discussion.

I have heard stories from other families that left children at an Oasis on the way to Great America and at a rest stop on the way to Indiana Dunes. I imagine that Joseph was trying to get too much done, gathering up Jesus' half-siblings and was distracted at just the wrong moment. Reminded every year at Passover that he misplaced a kid, I suspect that Joseph was willing to be a little late getting back home and a bit more willing to accept that God takes care of that which is precious when we misplace something truly important.

NoWay - What a great story. I've never misplaced a child but I did "forget" to pick up at school when they were in elementary. (The school secretary knew me and called me right away and had them at the office). They STILL give me hell for that!

No way.... I might not use this for a sermon. I was dazed and confused halfway through.
That said, this situation was a bit different. There were two mistakes made here. 1) the parents didn't check with the sister, and 2) the sister left the kid. I'd love to know how old this sister was.

Braniff77 --
I suspect that No Way was also dazed and confused in the midst of the incident.

Some people have all the luck. No matter how many times I leave my kids somewhere, they always come back. :(

casey, I have that problem, too (sigh).

Actually, it's probably every kid's dream to be left alone in a Chuck E. Cheese. Although maybe not for a 2-year old.


*Rushes back to thruway rest stop*

Mom! Dad! I knew you'd come back.

I haven't been able to buy a newspaper. How did the Bush/Gore election debacle turn out?

and to think that I have been criticized for over 30 years just for forgetting my daughter in a bar for less than 30 minutes!

Ole - operative phrase, "in a bar." Nuff said. ;-)

hey, it was a family friendly bar and she had our friends' daughter with her. all in all, a more wholesome situation than Chuck E's place.

The pastor was gracious and gave a shortened version of the story that pretty much summed it up in about 30 seconds.

The line that received the best laughs was "Dad, you are a dead man."

In a show of hands, about 10-15 people (nearly all male) indicated that they had misplaced a child. Out of an audience of 400, that's not too insignificant of a percentage. One of the raised hands was from a grandparent of a child involved in the child dedication at the end of the service.

Should a person seeking an anecdote on Luke 2:43 worry about whether or not the story is true... don't worry. I swear I'm not making this up.

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