“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”Luke 15:20b
Have you ever felt desensitized? Like everything in your life was moving around you but you felt as if you were in a blur and didn’t really notice what was around you? Maybe you watched too many sad movies in a row to where it no longer affects you. Maybe you heard a funny joke so many times that it became annoying. And maybe, just maybe, you’ve also fallen asleep to the miracle of a God who loves you.
Jesus describes this situation in Luke 15. He tells the story of a father’s youngest son who approaches him and asks for the inheritance that would be due to him when his father eventually passed away. He was essentially communicating that his father was dead to him and he only wanted his money. Ouch. But the father gives it to him, and the son goes off and lives wildlife doing whatever he wants. When it all comes crashing down, he is left with nothing—holding down a job feeding pig where he is tempted to eat the gruel in the trough himself. But then, he awakens. He thinks about how many of his father’s workers have more than enough food and has a great place to stay, so he decides to surrender himself back to his father as a servant. He stands and makes the long march back home.
The father noticed him coming back while he was still far off in the distance. Deuteronomy 21:18-21 even commands that the father, along with the community around him, stone his son for being rebellious. But this father isn’t filled with rage. He is filled with compassion. As the community around them would have been searching for and picking up stones to hurl at this boy, the father steps in and wraps his arms around him—both to protect him and welcome him home.
We call this story the Prodigal Son, but it is better understood as the story of the Radical Grace of a Loving Father. This is our story. We come to God, point angry fingers at Him, deny His best for our lives, and then try to run away. But He is there the whole time waiting for us to return. All we must do is awaken ourselves to the fact that we are running from God, and at that moment—even when we are still a long way off from Him—He meets us where we are and embraces us with His grace. What a good, good Father.
We all must reckon with the fact that our heart is prone to wander, prone to leave the God we love. May our prayer always be that God would stir our affections toward Him and that each time we wander off track—as we will do many times in our lives—we would quickly awaken to His grace and come running home. He is there waiting patiently with open arms, so come home.