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My favorite story in the Bible is the parable of the Prodigal Son, told by Jesus in Luke 15:11-32. The brief summary of the story is that a father had two sons, and the younger son, desiring his independence, asked his father for his share of the inheritance so that he could take it and leave. Of course, this was an incredibly disrespectful thing to do, as the son was basically telling his father that he was as good as dead to him and that he preferred his money over him. But the father obliged, and the son went off to a distant land where he lived it up until the money ran out. The only job he could find was feeding pigs, until it got so bad that he found himself longing to eat the food the pigs were eating. He finally came to his senses and realized that he could have it better off as a servant in his father’s house. And so the son went home, practicing his “I’m sorry” speech as he went. But what happened next was completely unexpected:
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)
The father, who has already been disrespected by his son, disrespects himself even more by running to his son to embrace him as soon as he sees him returning home. And then the father proceeds to throw a party for his son, because although he was once lost, now he is found.
I thought of this parable this morning as I was spending time in prayer. I often struggle with distractions, occupying myself with trivial and meaningless things instead of devoting my time to things that are of higher importance. Last night, I had resolved to fast from some of those things for this week, and as I came before God this morning, I felt like the prodigal son, overwhelmed by an embrace from my Father. I was struck once again how deeply God longs to pour out His love on me and lift me up with His joy, but how often I prefer to spend my time on things that will not satisfy. But again and again, no matter how mixed my motives may be, when I climb out of the pigpen and start coming home to Him, I find that He comes running out to embrace me and remind me once again that I am His beloved son whom He loves.
Beloved, take heart from the story of the Prodigal Son. Certainly he came home with mixed motives, driven more by a hungry belly than a truly repentant heart. Nevertheless, his Father ran to greet Him, embrace Him, and celebrate His return. Dare we believe that our Father feels the same way about us when we put aside the things of this world that occupy our attention and take steps towards Him? May we recognize that this is the heart of our loving Father, that He wants to lavish His love on us even when we don’t deserve it. May we believe the gospel message of the love of Jesus Christ for us, sinners that we are, and lay down the things that occupy our attention and come home to Him once again. As C.S. Lewis said:
“If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by an offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
And in the words of the prophet Isaiah:
“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live.” (Isaiah 55:1-3)
Your Father loves you. Come home to Him today and experience His love.
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