I Am My Father’s Child

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When I took this picture of my son and his daughter, I was thinking of God’s love for me. Lillyann was fussing terribly, so Tyler held her until she settled down. The word translated “repent” at the end of Job is a Hebrew word that describes the sigh of release that comes from a child who has stopped struggling. Christ’s story of the prodigal son reminds me of that sigh. The son is ready to beg his father for a job. He is hoping for a handout but┬áreceives an embrace that surprises all. We recently finished a four-part series on Luke 15 that caused me to pause and reflect on my own longing to be embraced.

“We have all of these influences in our lives by whom we long to be embraced, but we will never be fully accepted, fully embraced in this world. Father God says, ‘I want to embrace you for your being, not for your doing. Will you come home? Will you let me embrace you?'” (Jeff Helpman-“Scandalous Grace Part Four” October 12, 2014)

Christ’s vivid image of a father running with abandon toward a son he believed to be lost models God’s love for us. He didn’t care what others thought or whether his reaction was the right one or not. Love caused him to forget and forgive all and run into his son’s arms. I’ve always loved the story and often wished my own father had been able to love me the way the father in this story loves. God reminded me that my father ran down an embankment and jumped into a muddy lake with the same abandon when he kept me from drowning the summer I was five.

Daddy didn’t say, “I love you” or embrace me tenderly; but he loved me the best way he knew how. He did his best to prepare me for the rough hands of this world. He knew I wasn’t going to make it if I couldn’t pay attention, so he had to do something. He chose corporal punishment to get my attention, and it worked. My spirit was broken, but I learned to pay attention. I loved school and ending up teaching for thirty-three years. I had a special place in my heart for those who had a hard time staying focused because I understood their struggle. I wouldn’t recommend his method of teaching, but it did give me the discipline I needed for success.

I am my father’s child in many ways. He had an insatiable curiosity and loved to learn. I am very like him in that regard, and I see a lot of him in my son and his sweet daughters. I love my father, and I’m thankful I was able to tell him that before he died. We had a rocky relationship for many decades, but we became very close before the end of his journey. I was with him when he had his stroke, and my mother insisted that I take him to the hospital. As I watched him losing his grasp on reality, I held his hand and told him what I knew he needed to hear. It is the same thing my heavenly Father wants to hear. I told him that I knew he loved me. He relaxed, and I saw relief settle into his beautiful blue eyes. It was a turning point for both our hearts.

Fall has been a time of beautiful healing in many ways. I’ve looked back in love at how my heart was handled and come to see that it was handled the best way those holding it could handle it. That may not make sense to some, but it has helped me see that we all love differently and imperfectly. Christ’s precious love is perfect, but ours never will be. That doesn’t mean we can’t try to love as Christ loves. I believe it’s what the story of the prodigal son is all about.

My Prodigal Heart

My heart goes out to the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32 because I can relate to his struggle to find what was waiting for him at home all along. I didn’t go searching for fame or fortune as he did; I simply wanted to be loved.

I feel for the older brother who is miserable in his servitude and has neither compassion nor joy for his lost brother who is now saved. He misses the opportunity to celebrate because of his own misery. Misery does indeed love company, and it keeps me from much joy. The older brother isn’t broken, and brokenness is part of the path to God. Without it, I cannot relate to the brokenness of the world. God brings His righteousness to me through His precious Son. Until I am broken, I cannot understand or appreciate the cost of that righteousness. When I depend upon my own righteousness to be enough, I am as disappointed as the older son in the story.

Repentance requires that I admit my sin and confess it to God, and that is never easy. It humbles and reminds me of the plan God put into place before He formed the world. Christ is dismissed when I think I can be good enough or work hard enough to make things right in my relationship with Him. The only way to repair my relationship with God is admit I’m broken and in need of His righteousness.

When I do that, I find myself in the position of the prodigal son, eating slop with the pigs rather than sitting at the table celebrating with God. Until I come to that place of desolation and hurt, I cannot begin to make my way back to His table. The older son believes he deserves to be honored for all he’s done, and that is a worse position than coming to the understanding that I deserve to eat with the pigs. Heartfelt confession changes my heart and mind in a way that allows me to live the praying life God desires.

Prayer begins with acknowledging God is Who He says He is. Who I am and who I am not then becomes painfully clear. The prodigal found his way home, and it was well worth the time and money it took for him to find it. The father was a good father who understood that well. God is the best Father and knows my wandering heart needed the lessons of the humbling path I chose. Coming to the place of confession is a crossroad where I must choose the direction I will take. The prodigal could have stayed and wallowed in self pity, convinced himself it was best to stay away from those he loved, or simply given up. Many do just that. It’s why Christ tells this powerful story. I can go back to those I love after being lost, but I must go with a clear understanding of who I am and Who God is. Then, God will celebrate with me. Not everyone will be happy when the lost find their way to God, especially if they take the path of the prodigal, but they can miss the celebration if they want to, it’s their choice just as it is mine to come home and celebrate with God.

Lessons in living the praying life are promising to be a greater challenge than those lessons in love! The open arms of the father in the story of the prodigal son are a glimpse of the glorious welcome God has in mind for me. It is a story of hope from the God of hope, and I needed it this week. I guess that’s why He put it in my path:)