Lately, I am hearing and reading so much about the important role father’s play in the lives of their children. This is not new information, you and I know this to be true. A friend in my husbands Bible study recently said, “We are all imprinted with the desire for a fathers approval.” How true this statement is and how many people have gone without approval? Our world is filled with people who are in need and probably do not recognize their void.
This constant reminder made me think of an amazing father Jesus used in a story He told His disciples. It is found in Luke 15 and Jesus tells of a father that had two sons. The younger one comes to him one day and asks for his inheritance early. The father gives it to him and the son leaves home. The day comes, after wild living, when the son is out of money and finds himself feeding pigs. He was in such a desperate state, he would have eaten what the pigs were being fed, but nobody helped him. “But then he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger. I will arise and go to my father’s house…”. (Luke 15 17-18). The son had come to the end of himself and remembered the good life at home with his father. Not everyone can say that, but we can all say our Heavenly Father is good if we are in a place of humility. To come to the end of yourself feels like death, but where true life actually begins.
The son then plans his return speech. “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” (Luke 15:18-19). With these words ready, he makes his way toward home. “But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20). This verse touches my heart so deeply. Can you even imagine this scene? After being away for so long and in such need without help, you are shown compassion. In hard times, I know the smallest act of kindness means so much, so this must have been overwhelming.
The story keeps getting better. “And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.” He was able to get his words out and acknowledges his sin, not only against his father, but also God. This is a great place to start. The father does the most remarkable thing and I wish this would be every father’s response when a humbled child comes home. “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fattened calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry…”. (Luke 15:22-23). We are not told of a response to the son’s words, but orders start flying.
What I love so much is that the father does not hesitate to hug his son and nor does he send his son away to get cleaned up. He orders the best robe, ring and sandals be brought out for his son. He places the best over this son, who had to be filthy if his last job was feeding pigs. He was dirty, but he is now covered by a clean robe. This concept was spoken of earlier in scripture. “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness…”. (Isaiah 61:10). When we come to the end of ourselves, return “home” in repentance, confessing that we are a sinner and that God sent His Son to die for our sin, our Heavenly Father now sees us covered in a clean robe of acceptance. All sin is forgiven and we will one day be home for good in Heaven.
A feast is being prepared and a celebration is coming. The father actually says, “for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” (Luke 15:24). Such love this father has for his son! He does not lecture or use the excuse of how his father responded to him. His first response is pure love and calls him son. With this kind of love, after messing up so badly, I bet this son never wanted to leave home again. The same is true with our Heavenly Father. When our heart and head finally accept His love, we never want to wander into anything that would dishonor our Father. Oh, we still sin, but we repent and remain forever covered in righteousness.
Like the father with his son, there is no need to clean yourself up or wait, just come home. I do not know your story and who your father was or is. You might not know either. Or maybe just the thought of your father causes fear and anger to arise. The heartbreaks a father can cause are tremendous, but brought to our Heavenly Father, can be healed. I think perhaps so many dads do not realize the impact they have on their kids. And maybe like my dad has said, that each generation does a little bit better than the last. More information is available and the realization of what you as a parent have been entrusted with becomes a bit clearer.
When I put myself in either the son or the father’s place, I just want to weep. To feel loved and accepted as a child would be phenomenal. To have your father run with compassion in his arms… can you even wrap your head around that? As the father, to see my son coming towards home would be like a dream. I wonder how long he had waited for this day? I do not think I could have gotten to my child fast enough. You better believe I would have put the best I had over him and covered all he had lost. A son of mine does not dress in rags, but the finest of what I can give. A party would be planned immediately to show everyone that my son was home and to join in the celebration. The days following I would sit with him to hear the unfolding of the story that led to the return. What had happened was covered in repentance, so punishment would not have been extended. There were natural consequences, his inheritance was now gone, but he was home. Things would all be worked out.
Friend, I do not know your story, but you can place yourself as the son in these remarkable words of Jesus in Luke 15. You have a Father just waiting for you to turn, repent and start moving towards home. He has His eye on you and will meet you. What are you waiting for? Jesus also says, “Likewise, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10). Eli’s decision on Thursday caused a party in Heaven. Today you could too and I would love to celebrate your return too!