Recently, I had an experience that made my heart pound like it did at my first dance. I sweated icy-cold buckets and my stomach cold have earned the knot-tying merit badge.
My three-year old was lost.
It was Sunday after our stake conference. It had been a busy weekend full of meetings--inspirational but tiring. Our visiting authority from the Quorum of the Seventy had emphasized missionary work. An apostle visiting our stake the week before had emphasized the same thing. I listened and promised myself that I would do better at sharing the gospel.
But for the moment, we were having a relaxing lunch with friends at the stake center. While the adults talked, the children ran through the stake center and played hide-and-seek (reverently, of course).
After a pleasant afternoon, we decided it was time to leave. We called the kids and they came: one, two, three, four....wait. Where's the three-year old?
I began to feel uneasy. We started to look for him. A quick canvass of the irregular halls of our very large stake center yielded nothing. I began to worry. The doors of the building were all unlocked and we're not far away from a major thoroughfare. We've also been warned that there is a registered sex offender living in the neighborhood.
I started running from room to room, and the rest of the family joined me. We yelled and yelled but there was no answer.
I started to panic. I was terrified that my son was gone, that he would not return to me. The primal fear and anguish that gripped me is beyond words, but if you're a parent you understand.
We finally found him. He had hidden under the piano in the Relief Society Room and fallen asleep. I said grateful prayers on the way home.
This got me thinking about missionary work. I've never been very good at it. I served a mission and worked hard, but I haven't been valiant or even mediocre in sharing it with my friends and neighbors since then.
In those distressing moments I had an epiphany. I've known my child for only three years. but I love him to the full extent of my flawed mortal capacity. If, heaven forbid, anything should ever happen to him, our temple covenants promise an eternity together.
So, if the thought of him not returning distressed me, what kind of grief must that same thought cause our Father--a being who has loved us perfectly for longer than we can comprehend? How must he feel when he considers the thought of His children being lost and not returning--being separated forever?