The Prodigal’s Father
Have you gotten yourself dirty in this world of ours and think you have a stench too harsh for God to handle? Do you want to get clean so you can come back home to Him and get fed? What do you expect God will do when He sees you heading back with your head hung low and your pockets empty from giving this world a wild whirl?
Here is Jesus, who perfectly knows how compassionate His Father really is, explaining to all of us just how incredible God’s love and forgiveness are – He is not guessing and this is no opinion. He has spent all of eternity in community with the Father and Jesus has watched Him act like the father in the story over and over. He knows Him and he knows how He acts, even toward the most rebellious in His created order. He shows us this beautiful picture of the height and width and depth and length of love in its truest form. Take a look at how the Father gives his child what he asked for and allows him to go on his own way – So much respect in the giving over when even foolish freewill is chosen. Then, as the starving and embarrassed pig-boy comes stumbling back from a distant country, most likely stinking of some pretty serious B.O. and definitely with a shame speech connected to his wild living and failures to make it “out there,” the father (our Father) runs to his “dead” son and throws His arms around him. And he does so without even demanding explanation or insisting that his boy take a shower. I’ve been around people who haven’t showered in months and the fug is foul – like I loved them but I could hardly stand within ten feet of them without wanting to vomit. Give me two days without a bath and I’m right there with them. So, I am figuring since this child of his is traveling a huge distance most likely on foot, that he must stink. And yet, I reiterate, the father doesn’t allow for any distance to come between his child and him because of a wretched stink. A stink that is both of the body and of the reputation. Our own Heavenly Father doesn’t care about getting dirty or smelly as He embraces us as we maybe even crawl our way back – He’s just so thrilled to see us again that He cannot and will not resist reaching out in a full-on embrace.
That’s hard for me to understand. That’s hard for me to accept. I don’t understand that kind of love. Jesus is telling me I have that sort of love at my disposal, but I hold it at arm’s length because I know I have the smell of a dead man and the history of a bad man. I have one of the longest rap sheets on supernatural record and I have lived as a lifetime prodigal for almost all of my days. I look back years and I look back to today and I simply don’t trust myself. Better said, I don’t love myself. There have been years and years even, of hating myself for being such a terrible recidivist and thief of my God’s inheritance. But then, when I pray, I hear this father from the story and I hear this Heavenly Abba of mine saying something impossible but true: “You are my loved child!” What do I do with that? As the ring is put on my finger and the robe is draped over my shoulders and sandals are put on my feet and the fatted calf is slaughtered to destroy my personal rejection, I try to fight this inconceivable love. I think, “Well, the son in the story is better than me. He screwed up a bit out there but he finally came to his senses and went home to do the right thing.” But then I am reminded by the Spirit of God that that son, that child, and me had and have the same motives in coming home. He didn’t come home because he wanted to be a better son. He came home because his belly was yelling for food in a land of famine and he recalled that his father was rich and had plenty of food even for the servants. He is no hero and I am no hero. But both of us non-heroes come home to a
Father who just want us back in the house – who just wants to remind us despite our mistakes and gruesome foolishness that we are loved children of the One who has been parenting and protecting us from the enemies of this world since we were born. So, lately, daily, I have been saying the following to myself: God, I hate the things I have done and the things I do. But since you love me so much that you run to me every time I head home and because you love the fearfully and wonderfully made being that you created me to be, I will also love what you love. I will love the me that you made and I will stop condemning myself for losing everything out there in this stupid world that got me to buy into its charms.”
And it works. When I say this, I can stop practicing my worthlessness speech prepped for every stupid trip on the prodigal carousel and start talking like a son – like a co-heir – like the loved child of this great Father who is willing to get my stink on him so that He can show me that self-hatred is wrong. Do I say it every day? Do I bypass the self-hatred every moment? No. I fall back into the prodigal/slave mindset often when I allow my sin to be evidence in Satan’s arsenal against me. And I whip myself for whatever smells like the distant country that comes sweating from my pores. But, I’m noticing more and more that God runs to me and grabs me and tells me that I am His loved child before I can complete the self-destruction. He interrupts my hatred speech and dresses me up in fashion that bashes the lies in their heads. And to be honest, it’s hard to argue against sonship when you are dressed like a loved son with all of the important accessories, who has been given authority and who is celebrated so mightily.
I hope that you get what I am saying here in your own life. Sure, we are to die to our worldly selves daily, but we all must fall in love with the created versions of ourselves who return home – even if the returning is for all of the wrong reasons – even if we are practicing the most selfish form of “repentance.” You should try, but you will never be clean enough for this reunion. Our righteousness attempts are filthy rags at best and so we look to Jesus who left his home and his Father to come to our distant country and become our righteousness by getting hammered to a cross and then rising from the dead. His death and resurrection gave us a passport and an acceptable visa to go to paradise forever to be with his and with Our loving Father. The robe will fit. The ring will fit. The sandals will fit. The party will be loud. The feast will taste amazing. And you will never be hungry again.
This is Home!
This is Real Love!