What on earth is this person doing? What is she looking for? Why is she searching?
These are the questions I hope you will wonder when you first engage this painting. And when you discover the answer, I hope you wonder even more.
After stunning his critics with the parable of the lost sheep, Jesus hits them again with a sequel, “The Search for the Lost Coin”. This second parable tells the story of a woman who stays up all night searching for a single lost coin. When she finds the coin, she invites all of her friends and neighbors to come and celebrate with a big party. Only a compulsive disorder would drive a person stay up all night searching for the coin. And only a foolish person would waste the money to burn a lantern all night and throw a huge party worth many times more than the value of the coin. But it is with this kind of seemingly foolish grace that our God seeks after us.
Unlike the painting of the shepherd, who had found his sheep, I wanted to explore in this painting, the concept of searching. The woman in this piece is turning her home upside down in search of the lost treasure (a coin, a ring, a remote control... it doesn’t matter). The coin is never revealed in order to engage you and get you to wonder what might be worth ransacking a home in the middle of the night. Borrowing from chiaroscuro masters like Rembrant and Caravaggio, the subject is brought to light out of night’s darkness. You can faintly see the overturned chair and basket in the background. The woman’s hair is unkept. You can see that this is a long and ongoing search, and it is consuming all of the her time and energy. Is she looking under a bed, or under something strewn on the floor? Is she looking under there for the first time? Or second? Or Third? The whole point to this mystery is to meditate on the seeker and wonder about that which is lost.
Each and every one of us is God’s most treasured possession. That includes you, me, and the countless invisible, untouchable and unlovable people out there in the world. And when even one of us is lost, God will stop at nothing to get us back. There is no limit to how long God will try. There is no resource God will not employ. Eternally seeking. Even in the darkest places, in the dead of night, God still seeks to find us. We might think its crazy that God would care so much for so many and go through so much fuss over even the worst of us. But to God, we are all worth it.