I'm not sure if there are any greater lessons than those that are intended to exemplify God's love. That's what I was able to teach in Primary, today.
Before we dug into our scriptures, I shared the story of when my first baby was only a few days old. We went to a family gathering at my husband's parents. Being a first-time mother, I was fiercely protective of my baby. My mother-in-law was holding my little baby while I was visiting with other family members. After a while, I looked around the room and noted that my baby was not in the room. I got up and began to look around. My baby was not anywhere to be found. I panicked! I recalled that my mother-in-law was the last one holding my baby. I found my husband and demanded, in the voice of a lioness, to know where my baby was -- and where was his Mother!?! Eventually we found out that "grandma" was out in the neighborhood, bursting with pride, as she went from house to house showing off her adorable new granddaughter! Well, needless to say I was incredibly relieved and so very happy to have my infant back in my arms, where she belonged!
Everyone in class then had their own lost and found stories, of which we all agreed that being reunited with a person or item, that we greatly valued, was truly a joyous occasion!
We then spent time in Luke 15 searching and discussing the three parables that the Savior told in response to the Pharisees and scribes who were critical of Him for hanging out with sinners and publicans; pretty much the bottom of the barrel to these prideful priests. These three scenarios are intended to represent and teach the depth of love that Heavenly Father has for His Children.
The power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ makes repentance possible, and ultimately returns us to our Heavenly Father. I emphasized this power and shared with my class that there is nothing they could ever do that would keep God from loving them -- so great is His love. He requires us to repent so that the Savior's sacrifice can cleanse us. We only become "lost" when we choose to turn away from His commandments. We are "found" when we turn away from sin, and repent.
I was then impressed to recall two other stories of when we "lost" that same baby. First when she was around 14 or 15 and she actually ran away for about two weeks -- terrifying. The other when at 16 she made the decision to be less active. It kind of stunned me to connect these dots. I only shared, briefly, the story of when she became inactive and then ultimately returned to the Church when she was in college. They particularly enjoyed the happy ending, wherein she eventually met and married her husband and was sealed in the temple to her beautiful family.
We have one girl in our class, who is not a member. Her older brother served a mission for the Church and brings her when he is able. Today we found out that she is moving. As I bore my testimony of God's love for all of his children and that even though we might become lost at times, He is always waiting for our return. I then shared with the class that my parents divorced when I was 10. I hardly ever went to Church. I was "lost". When I was in high school the girls from Church would always say hello to me and invite me to Church. Eventually I made the decision to come to Church. I had to do some repenting. I remember feeling the great love that my Heavenly Father had for me and knew in my heart that He was happy with my being "found". I then challenged each one of them to reach out to others.
I'm still not completely sure why these experiences with my oldest daughter came so suddenly, both while preparing this lesson and then teaching it. My class is much too young to have really gone into any kind of detail to share these stories. I guess for me, it was a little reminder of how much the atonement has blessed my children. I am grateful, personally, for the atonement. However, the atonement would have so much less meaning without the hope of my family and loved ones being with me throughout eternity.
I will forever be grateful to those who have extended their love to my children, who have at times, become lost. I still have one out there, but my faith is strong that one day, he too, will be found.
We are all lost, so to speak, and are in need of constant petitioning to our Father in Heaven for His grace and mercy. How grateful we are for His Beloved Son, our elder brother, who atoned for our sins so that we might repent and return to God -- exactly where we belong!
"If we truly understood the Atonement and the eternal value of each soul, we would seek out the wayward boy and girl and every other wayward child of God. We would help them to know of the love Christ has for them. We would do all that we can to help prepare them to receive the saving ordinances of the gospel." Russell M. Nelson