A toy cowboy, a shepherd, and me.
I’m a 90s baby. The cornerstones of my childhood included Pogs, Tamagotchi, and of course Toy Story. I played and rewound my VHS copy of the first installment of the mega hit movie series so many times that the tape stopped working. (And if you know anything about the longevity of a VHS tape, you know that’s no small feat.)
I kept up with each subsequent movie in the series, but none of them touched my core quite like the first. Even still, when it was announced last summer that Toy Story 4 was to be released summer of 2019, I knew I had to see it. I promptly set a reminder on my phone and vowed to see it the day it came out. That day was yesterday.
After dinner, me and my four oldest kids piled into our minivan and off we went. Armed with giant buckets of popcorn and sugary beverages, I could just FEEL that this movie was going to rock. What I didn’t expect, though, was to see myself among the anthropomorphic toys.
I grew up going to church, but fell away from Christianity in my late teens. I considered Jesus a great moral teacher, someone whose lessons could be loosely applied to life, but without really applying any of them myself. In my life, Jesus was not an authority figure, or even a god—I was.
Fast forward a decade or so and things couldn’t be any more different. I’m married, have lots of kids, and Jesus is obviously and unequivocally the center of our family. The process of giving my life to Him was not easy, but it has absolutely been worth it. The changes he has produced in me aren’t something I can take credit for either. God has relentlessly chased after me, calling my name time and time again until I eventually started to listen.
Wait… isn’t this about Toy Story? Right.
There’s a scene early in Toy Story 4 that sets the tone for much of the rest of the film. A little girl named Bonnie loses her favorite toy, Forky. Ever the hero, Sheriff Woody decides to reunite Bonnie and Forky. Woody’s other toy friends are full of reasons why this is a bad decision—it’s dangerous, Bonnie will find another toy she loves, Forky’s not even a real toy. Undaunted, Woody pays no mind to the naysayers and set out on his quest.
In the Bible, Jesus tells a similar story about sheep. You can read it in Matthew 18:12-14, but in summation, it says this: A man had 100 sheep. One of them got lost. Instead of playing it safe with the 99 sheep he still had, the man left to find the one that had wandered off. Jesus then goes on to say that we are the sheep, and God the shepherd. He’s not content for any of us to slip through the cracks.
Whoa. God is forever surprising me in the ways he chooses to speak. And tonight, sitting in that big leather reclining seat wearing crooked 3D glasses, I heard him speak a gentle reminder of how He pursued me. God probably could’ve come up with a million reasons not to go out and search for me, just like Woody could have…but he didn’t. I was the one lost sheep so desperately in need of his pursuit. He zeroed in on a rescue plan for me and didn’t stop until I was rightfully his. I’m baffled by his reasons, by his effort, by his love. And yet, I’m eternally grateful.
If you’re feeling lost, forgotten, overlooked, I believe God wants to find you. You may not even believe he’s real, but my own life story speaks of a good shepherd who finds his lost sheep… or a toy cowboy setting out to find a beloved fork.
Keep holding on. Keep hoping. Keep listening. I believe your shepherd is coming.