I knew our young son was upset. But I was surprised – and broken-hearted – when I walked past his bedroom and saw him packing his little bag. When I asked him what he was doing he replied that he was leaving home. When I asked where he was going he said he was headed to his best friend’s house. Tired of the regulations and rules he wanted out. He wanted freedom. He wanted to live life his way. To make a short story even shorter, we chatted and fortunately he remained home. All ended well.
The whole incident reminded me of another son and his father. We meet them in a story told by Jesus (Luke 15: 11-24) This young son (quite a bit older than mine) rebelled. He was bored with life; he’d had enough of the laws, the chores, the responsibility of doing for others. He was a “man” now, ready to do it his way. So he cashed out his inheritance; that meant he made a complete break from his family and his home; there was no longer any attachment or legal standing to his family; he had legally and literally severed the family tie.
Whether or not you’ve ever felt that way with your earthly father, have you ever felt like that with God? The reality is most of us have run from God – or wanted to. There have been moments when we wanted to throw off our religious upbringing, or rebel and run away from God to build our own lives, to get out from underneath the rules and regulations of what we perceived as a tyrannical, freedom limiting God. We want no strings attached to our lives. We want to do what we want, when we want, where we want, how we want. We don’t want anybody else calling the shots. We desire the power to make all our choices for ourselves.
Not convinced you match up to this young son? Think about it. Our inheritance is all the resources of life – our intellect, emotion, will, and the gifts and resources of the Spirit of God. They are all ours to use as we desire! God only asks that we remember the source. But what have we done with our gifts? Too often we have stuffed our lives full of what we can touch, taste, save, and sell. We, too, have taken the Father’s capital – our energy and ambition, our highly developed reason, our technological skills, our ability to be inspired by great things and ideas, our abundant giftedness from the Spirit – and have gone to the far country, without the Father; we have failed to take Him into account. So let’s admit it – we all have a little far country to which we’ve run. Whether we rejected our faith, broke or abused our relationships, blew our priorities, or messed up our involvements, anytime we placed our desires first we traveled to our far country.
But notice what happened. The family tie pulled at the young son’s heart. It pulled him towards home. He remembered the real source of his life, and who he really was. His life came from his father. He would always belong to his father. To think he could cut himself off from his father is like thinking we can hold our breath and be independent of oxygen. Sooner or later, we return to the source of life. As Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God.”
So the son headed for home. Remember that he no longer had any claim to the family – he had completely severed the tie. So he was ready to repent and ask to be the lowest of the slaves. Here’s the rest of the story.
“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. “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”
The father, of course, is a picture of our Heavenly Father. Jesus wants us to know that never once are we out of our Father’s mind and heart. Never once do we come home to an empty house or a cold heart. Not only is the welcome mat always out but our heavenly Father throws a party of celebration and reinstates us as His children.
How can we be sure? We see the Father in Jesus. “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” Jesus’ story illuminates the faithfulness of God’s love, a faithfulness and love seen in Jesus dying on a cross. Because of Jesus we can be certain that we are always welcome at home. God loves us for who we are, not what we do or where we go. And being His children our Father is always ready to run and embrace us, to kiss us, to love us some more. It doesn’t get much better than that!
So the next time you think you’ve had enough, remember: “Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, calling for you and for me…’ Come home, come home, ye who are weary, come home.”