back to the farm

Jenny and I were talking to David on the way home after dinner Saturday night, and it occurred to me once again that I need to do a few things differently if I am to be an example to him of…anything, really. There are a ton of things a boy needs to know before he becomes a man. He will need to know how to treat a woman one day, and it’s my job to show him that. I can tell him all I want, but I also need to show him, and the way I do that is by loving his mother, and treating her (and honoring her) the way Jesus would.

He will need an example of how to be a believer in a fallen world, and it’s my job to show him that, too. He’ll need to know about handling struggle, and hardship, and blessings. If I am the leader of our family I hope to be, then these are all things he (and John) will be looking to me for answers about. And one of the more complex things I’ve been thinking about, and wondering how on earth to explain it to him, is what to do when we mess up. When we turn away from God, willfully. When we know what we should do, and do the exact opposite. It could be for lots of reasons. Maybe we feel we’re entitled to something because life has been a bitch, and we deserve _______. Or who knows why?

But we fall, and we sin, and one day we wonder what to do about it. We wonder if we can go back. We wonder if God will still listen to our entreaties.

I need to show my kids that we’re never so far from God that we can’t turn back toward Him. I need them to know that His love for us is so much greater than our mistakes. And silly as it sounds, I need them to know that I am not some perfect ideal of belief, of faith. I need them to know I’ve fallen, too. That I’ve been light years from God, and that even as far as I’ve been, when I turned back to Him, God was waiting for me.

Last night David and I were reading his bible, and we got to the parables in Luke. We read the parable of the Lost Coin, and the Lost Son. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve read Luke, or the Lost Son Parable in particular. And it still gets me every time.

In David’s bible, the lost son is depicted as a despondent-looking young man in filthy robes, approaching his father with his head down. The father is depicted as smiling, happy, with his arms held wide open to his filthy

17“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20So he got up and went to his father.
”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…”

There are a few books in the bible I’ve read more than once. More that I’ve read several times—and many, unfortunately, that I haven’t read at all. But I keep coming back to Luke; especially, the parables found in Luke 15. I must have read Luke more than a dozen times in the past year. Particularly, the parable of the lost son.

Today, I remembered that I posted about it last year, and it occurred to me to go back and raid my own post. Maybe it’s just that I’ve been feeling like the lost son again of late—the lost son ready to return to my Father.

Lately, I’ve felt like I’ve been wasting away my inheritance. Wasting it with my feeble prayer life and inconsistent discipleship. Wasting it with my poor example to David. Wasting it by not being the strong leader my family needs me to be.

And now, I’m ready to come back to my Father. So again, I turned to my old friend Luke. But maybe it isn’t just me. Who among those who believe has not done the same? Who hasn’t been the lost son? Who hasn’t taken generosity and love for granted? I think of all the times I’ve responded to God in a like manner. Maybe that’s the point, though. At least for me.

Personal conviction. And awareness that I need to repent anew.

Something always strikes me about that parable. Not so much the son’s apparent repentance–to me that smacked of forced contrition, not true remorse. He’s broke, and hungry, and has nowhere else to go. He’s just relating what he’s going to do, not baring his heart, or even seeking forgiveness. He came to his senses, it says, but that’s all. The son could have just been talking about finding a meal at that point.

He’d wasted away his inheritance. There was a famine. Why not return to the source of the inheritance, where the servants fared better than he was at the time?

Certainly, all those things are important. Yet what impacted me most was the father.

His grace toward the son.

The passage mentions that he sees his son when he was still a long way off, so he had to be outside looking for him. Scanning the horizon. Desperate to see his son return. I can see him standing there, shading his eyes with a hand.

Looking.

Waiting.

Hoping.

Not seeing.

Yet every day, looking.

It does not say how long he looked for his son. Only that:

”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…”

It kind of makes you think about the shepherd looking for his ONE lost sheep, rather than writing it off because he still has 99. He will pursue the lost one, and he will be filled with Joy when he makes it back home with that one sheep across his shoulders.

That’s the same Joy God feels when we return to the fold.

How he felt when, like the prodigal, I came to my senses. When I stood, looking across the Colorado river with tears running down my face and holes in the knees of my jeans. Was it forced contrition with me? Perhaps in a sense it was. But God did not care how I came back to him—just that I returned.

He felt joy. And scripture also tells us that angels rejoice.

But look again at the father’s reaction upon seeing his son.

“his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him…”

He did not stand waiting with his arms crossed, brow furrowed with displeasure. He did not grudgingly accept a tentative and awkward apology.

He was filled with compassion for his son, and he ran to him.

He ran.

He ran, probably forgoing all semblance of dignity.

He ran, robes flying, probably with arms extended. Running across the field to his lost son.

He ran, and he was filled with compassion.

He ran, and when he got to him at last, he threw his arms around him, and kissed him.

No condemnation, no judgement.

Just love.

He threw him a party, and killed the fatted calf.

Yesterday, I read that passage again and I thought about Jesus scanning the horizon for me, desperate to see me. I thought of him running toward me with his arms outstretched, running across a field to get to me. He’d been waiting for me all the time I’d been holding out, waiting for me to come to him. Waiting for me to come burdened, and afraid, and encumbered by the world.

He waited for me, even though I was not ready. Me, in my dirty robes.
He waited for me with his shepherd’s arms outstretched. He waited for me, in my unclean and starving state—impure in both thought and action.

Me, covered in the filth of my journey home.

Me.

And when he saw me, he could wait no longer.

He ran. And when he finally reached me, he threw his arms around me
and kissed me.

And there was rejoicing in heaven.

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Author: twilk68

God has changed my life, and changed me. It's that simple. I will ever be grateful, and if I live to be...well, OLD, I will never tire of telling people about the work done in my life, and what can be done in theirs, should they trust God with their innermost everything...

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