It was a simple text message.  Terse and begging an immediate response.  “Help please, any idea where my car keys are?”  Having three high energy children, dressed and ready to go somewhere requires a fair whack of energy.  To have that effort scuppered at the final hurdle by the sudden disappearance of the family vehicle’s keys, is a setback which can end the entire day’s events. “Have you checked my brown shorts?” I asked Julie, when I called her back.  The previous night we had done things a little differently.  Julie had a dance meeting she was to attend at Glenridge, and because it was Wednesday, I was going to take the kids to home group. Julie was going to take my car, since it’s the smaller one and lighter on juice.  I was simply going to cross the road.  When her meeting finished, Julie came and joined us at the Raubenheimers and we all went home together in the little green Peugeot, kids all sleeping on the back seat. Then there was the haze of getting three sleeping children into their beds, without them being woken by noise, cold or accidental, dad-induced head bumps, as well as setting Noah’s camp cot back up.  What actually happened to the keys, I cannot recall. Asking Jules to check the pants I had been wearing the night before was my first port of call.  Maybe I had forgotten to take the second set of keys out and to put them back on their hook?  But no, this was not the answer. Of course!  We’d probably left them at Mark and Les’ place the night before!  Between transporting the sleeping siblings and gathering the various items they had shed during the night, we must’ve simply overlooked them.  So Julie sent Ethan across the road to check if Mark was home.  He wasn’t. So, feeling pretty sure that they were definitely, without a major doubt, sitting on one of Mark’s tables, I proceeded to make a plan with Jules.  I’d come home from work to give her my set of house keys.  She could then take the big car’s spare keys and go do what they needed to do.  The day would be an unqualified success! Except that when I got home, we discovered that the spare key’s battery was dead.  When we tried to open the door manually, the key broke.  I was starting to smell the faint scent of Randela’s burning through my cotton pants. I decided to give both Mark and Les a call, asking if they’d noticed our keys lying about.  Mark was only twenty minutes away from arriving home.  Julie and I basked in the glow of a spontaneous family lunch, while I bristled internally with unbridled key-finding confidence.  We heard Mark hoot almost bang on the twenty minute mark.  Ethan and I scurried over, stomachs full and joy in our hearts.  After five minutes of searching, joy only seemed to remain in Ethan’s heart. I trudged back.  Ethan ran.  My mind raced.  Joy was still pouring forth from my eldest as he cheerfully announced to Julie that the keys weren’t at Mark’s place.  Show some sympathy for your dad, son! Then both Jules and I started doing that thing you do when you’ve lost something.  Check all the places you’ve already checked three times, but this time, you look with more intent!  Your eyes start to bug out.  You stare into corners, hoping to unfold the space-time continuum.  Then you check all the places you noticed your spouse was just checking, because somewhere along the line, the mission became a surreptitious competition.  Motivation ebbs and flows.  A switch flips in your brain.  You start checking all the places a lost item shouldn’t be.  You look in bins, sugar containers, freezers and cupboards that have been locked and never opened.  You berate the animals for eating your prized possession and then depositing the bits in the four corners of the earth.  You open containers too small to actually hold the item you’re looking for.  You look between sheets of paper.  By this point, you’re really into wiping out all doubt.  Nothing is certain anymore.  You actually visit Narnia, but you’re too obsessed to care. Where did we go from this point?  Logically, we grilled the child with the most comprehension about the movements and behaviours of the least communicative, but most inquisitive member of the family.  Noah had started pushing chairs around a few days earlier.  He was using them to climb up onto surrounding tables and shelves in order to discover more.  Had he reached the key rack? “Ethan, have you seen Noah with the car keys?” Julie asked. “Yes!  I saw him with them, but I don’t remember where,” replied Ethan.  It was a great clue.  One we’d only wished we’d received fifteen minutes earlier.  Efforts to actually interrogate the teething toddler proved futile.  He smiled and we melted. The clue did trigger something in Julie’s memory though.  She had remembered seeing Noah’s play keys outside on the patio.  His play keys are actually real keys from a previous home that we no longer needed and they generally lived with our other keys up on the key rack!  Evidence was mounting!  Had he also been playing outside with our keys?  We silently and not-so-silently wondered if he had tossed them outside into the heavy Mount Moreland foliage!  Outside we went, scratching in the undergrowth, looking in weed beds, in bushes and under all manner of things. Hope faded.  The skies darkened.  Time ran out.  We needed a miracle.  We prayed.  But the game was up.  I needed to go back to work and we needed to make a decision about what the family was going to do for the afternoon.  Defeated, they stayed at home and I returned to work. The drive back was peppered with thoughts about the keys.  I started praying fervently, asking for help.  Had I dropped the keys outside on the way to the Raubenheimers the night before and a stranger had picked them up?  They’d have access to the house!  Do we need to get a locksmith?  What about the car’s spare keys?  Do I need to get a new set and a new battery?  I saw problems and costs mounting.  I prayed more. With the true, fervent prayer, peace and clarity came.  I felt the voice of the Father, the one who can love and cut us at the same time ask, “Will you pray for the lost like this?”  As eternity loomed large over me, my response could only ever be ‘yes’.  In an instant, I understood something more about His heart.  Life was added to my knowledge.  The gospel received some legs. Once we were all like our lost keys; important, valuable and horribly lost.  But now we’re found.  The work however, is not finished.  Don’t try to do evangelism.  Ask God for His heart for the lost.  Let yourself be overwhelmed by His heart which beats for the lonely, broken and forgotten.  You will naturally, and supernaturally, start to do His will. And what happened to our keys?  We found them a few hours later.  They were in the door.