Luke 15 “‘For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”
Jesus is teaching the people. He tells them a story about a father and his son.
In the story, the father offered stability. The son wanted adventure.
The patriarch passed on his inheritance. The heir threw it all away.
The father remained and was faithful. The son escaped and was regretful.
It did not take long for the boy to realize the error in his judgment. Life on his own was nothing like his life at home. Eventually, the wayward youth swallowed his pride and returned to the safety and shelter of his father’s open arms.
I love this story. Perhaps, because it hits very close to home. It hasn’t been too many years ago that I looked out the kitchen window and saw my 4-year-old daughter standing at the side of the street. In her arm she carried a wicker basket. On her face, a look of determination. It was obvious she was running away.
I think she was suprised to see me walking quickly in her direction. Her face revealed a mixture of concern and relief. “What’s up, Emily?” I asked breathlessly.
“Nothing.” She was not very convincing.
“Are you going somewhere?” I nodded toward her basket.
“I’m going to run away.” I wanted to laugh and at the same time I wanted to cry. I told myself that I must not blink. I must not blink.
“Really? Where are you going?” I must not blink. I must not blink.
“France.” I blinked.
I learned from my 4-year-old that her decision to leave was not a result of discontent. She was not unhappy. She didn’t hate her family. She simply wanted to travel and see the world. And she had decided she’d better get started before she became too old. She didn’t want to miss another thing. How can you argue with that?
I asked if she had packed any food or clothes for the journey and she showed me the contents of her basket; a baby doll, a towel, a stuffed bear, and a book. I explained the importance of having the right items for any trip, led her back inside, and helped make peanut butter sandwhichs. We packed a coat, removed the stuffed bear, and made room for the new items. Then we were off together, hand in hand, walking down the street, heading for France.
It was a cloudy day and I suggested an umbrella might be needed. She thought she should go back home for one. Shaking my head, I reached into my pocket and dug out a wrinkled $5 bill. “Buy one when you get to Fort Wayne. There’s no sense in going back home now.” She was not encouraged by my generosity.
We were several blocks from our house and I thought this might be a good place to say our good-byes. “I’m sure going to miss you.” I said. “But I understand. Promise you will call when you get to France.”
“I will.” She showed no emotion at all. She was a rock.
“Good-bye.” I hugged her tight. “I’ll tell your mom you love her.”
“Okay. Thanks. Good-bye.” Confident and self-sure, she turned south and started to walk. As I slowly turned on my heels and headed back toward home, my heart nearly burst out of my chest.
At the corner, I quickly slipped behind a large maple. I peeked around and watched my daughter walk away from me. She didn’t stop. She just kept walking. I began to worry that I might have to follow this kid all the way to France, hiding behind maple trees the entire way.
After a half block, it hit her. Her pace began to slow and 30 steps later she came to a stop. She turned and looked back. I stayed put. Tears blurred my vision. In her mind she was all alone. Her world had just become very big and from my vantage point, she looked incredibly small.
Her feet would not move forward. She looked over her shoulder one more time. I could hear my heart pounding in my ears. When I could bear it no more, I stepped out from behind the tree and walked slowly toward her. Now her feet were moving again but this time they were not taking her away. Instead, she was moving toward me with her head was held high. There was no shame in coming home.
We embraced and we cried. I kissed her curls and held her close. I bent down on my knees and looked at her through tear filled eyes. My voice quivered as I spoke, “Emily, I will never keep you from going but I sure am glad you decided to come home.”
We lingered there on Main Street for quite a while, hugging and crying. Eventually, we made our way a little further down the road to the ice cream shop. We shared one of her peanut butter sandwhichs and a chocolate milkshake she bought with that wrinkled $5 bill. It was a homecoming feast I will never forget.
Can you imagine the reunion that is awaiting us? Years will pass while we continue to walk away. Decades may slip by while we squander our heavenly inheritance. Millions of rebellious miles are traversed, creating an ever-widening gap between our broken and lonely hearts and God’s Amazing Love.
But when we turn to him, He will be waiting.
Tears will stream down his cheeks.
His arms will stretch out wide.
He will embrace us.
He will love us.
He will welcome us home.
What a day of rejoicing that will be.