Have you ever run away from home? I ran away from home when I was three years old and returned when I got to the end of the block! This is not what I am talking about. I mean seriously running away from home, severing relationships with family.
Maybe as a parent you have had a child run away from home. This is heart breaking, especially if you lose touch for a long time.
This is a tragic occurrence more times than we want to think about. Something else that is tragic – we sometimes call these missing sons and daughters troublemakers, unruly, hard to handle, rule breakers, or simply runaways.
Occasionally they may be called “prodigals.” Prodigal means extravagantly wasting money, spending resources recklessly. Jesus once told a parable about a runaway – often called the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:1-3, 11-32).
There are two prodigals in this story – the son and the Father. We tend to identify with the son, so we think he is the main character. I think Jesus meant for the father to be the main character. The loving, extravagant, reckless, prodigal father! Many may not have had a loving, prodigal father in your life. Our heavenly father is nothing like our earthly fathers.
In this familiar parable, the father never stopped loving the child who chose to go away. Through one powerful sentence in the story— While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion —we see the father constantly on the lookout for his lost son. Jesus didn’t just tell this story for entertainment value. He was giving us a glimpse of what God is like.
Have you have ever run away from God? If you have, and are still a long way off from God, the remedy is the same as that for the prodigal son. Realize you have an extravagant, loving Father in heaven. Realize the mess you are in by following your selfish desires. Right where we are, confess to God the truth about your situation and then allow God to help you turn in a new direction. All things can be new.
This is the beginning of repentance, of turning around, of knowing that we don’t belong to ourselves alone. Acknowledging this state is the first step toward reconciliation.
The father in the story didn’t watch so he could punish his son. He watched so he could embrace his child. The Prodigal Father does not ask, “Why are you coming homing after all you’ve done?” The Prodigal Father does not say, “I told you so!”
He does not bring up the past because the “old has passed away.”
During this Lenten season we realize again the image of an extravagant, loving, prodigal father, and of God’s arms ready to embrace all who may be lost. If you are currently far from God, know that God is even more reckless than the human prodigal father of this story.
God has open arms ready to receive us in a loving embrace.
God is always willing to take us in.
God does not look back to our own miserable past.
God offers us in the present moment, his reckless love.
Think of this. God reconciles us even when we were the ones who ran away.
This is the God who made us. It is the God we serve.
We do not need to live in the shame of our past. We can rest in the promise that we follow a God of deep compassion, love, and forgiveness. We can walk toward God as God runs toward us with an embrace of comfort and compassion.
He is a good Father who loves us with reckless love and is just waiting and watching for us to come back home.