by Sherry Nanninga Walker
suppose a woman has ten silver coins
and loses one...”
(Luke 15:8, NIV)
Bethlehem, 1993. Before we re-board the bus, our tour guide sorts ancient coins in his hand. He picks one up and shakes it at the man who’d approached him to sell to us. The guide holds out the other coins to us—a dollar each. I buy an Egyptian coin no bigger than a fingernail, blackened with age, stamping worn down to squiggles.
I think of that coin later at Chorazin, just north of the Sea of Galilee. Ancient Chorazin is built with black basalt. At the archaeological site, the remains of a dark stone synagogue lintel and toppled columns are re-stacked to show the fine carving. The guide shows us an
house, a warren of boxy rooms linked with stacked basalt walls.
In my Father’s house are many rooms
, he says. When a son married, the family added another room.
But I consider the floor, with paving-stones the color of my tarnished coin. If a coin, no bigger than a fingernail, rolled into that dark dust between the stones, how would it ever be found? Perhaps a woman with a bundle of weed stalk sweeps the floor, poking into every crevice. Perhaps this coin is from her dowry, one of ten. Perhaps it’s the family savings. In a dim room with thick walls and a tiny window, the woman lights a lamp. She can’t rest until she finds that coin.
Or perhaps that coin is us. Somehow we roll away, and before we realize it, we’re stuck in a crevice, hidden. We think we’re forgotten—perhaps we are—until we hear the shick-shick of a broom. The Householder works her way across the floor to us, methodically sweeping through the soot, until we’re found and restored.
Sometimes we’re handed a broom, and sent to find the missing one. “The hands of the Almighty are so often to be found at the ends of our own arms,” says Sister Monica Joan in
Call The Midwife
. (Which makes us want to smack her.) We look at the basalt floor, the narrow channels of volcanic dust, and wonder how this can be accomplished. Yet our dowry is incomplete, and our family diminished, until we set to work. We can’t always hear it, but in that moment, there is rejoicing.