“But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” Luke 15:32
On Saturday night, we put our oldest child on a bus bound for a Young Life camp in Colorado. She was a bit nervous and a very excited. Questions kept coming up, one circling the next, but being rooted in the main one. “Will I have a place to belong?” She isn’t the only one to ask this question. I could not answer that heart question untruthfully. I highly doubted she would be overlooked, but even if that happened, she is always in the presence of her Heavenly Father. She belongs, is loved and is secure. I pray she can rest in that and enjoy “the best of week of her life”. The other gift I had to offer her was that I had been a camper at this exact camp. Granted, that was a VERY long time ago. She called yesterday on a pay phone, since they do not have access to their phones – excellent idea that we should implement more. I am happy to report she is having a great time!
One of the things I loved about this camp experience was the over the top celebrating. It ranged from a huge square dance and pool party, to an abundance of food at every meal. There was also a fantastic concert by whatever talented artist was at camp that month. Music was heard often and you couldn’t help but dance. What made the celebrating that much sweeter was the place itself. Camp was designed to make much of God’s creation and eliminate the noise of busy and over stimulation of technology. Kids, leaders and workers live together in community, not isolation. The gospel is presented and lived out minute by minute. Everything is done with such excellence and points you back to the extravagant love of Christ. Real life, only found in Christ, is on display. Each activity, each meal, each message, all of it communicates to the camper that they are worth extravagant love. Excellence done with any other motive would be noticed immediately by a love depraved teenager.
Because it is in the mountains of Colorado, everyone can clearly witness what David writes in this verse, “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalms 19:1). One night in particular when I was a camper, the Lord put on a glorious starry night display! I had never seem a shooting star, but I did that night against a sky full of stars. And as a very love depraved 17 year old girl, who had been running for a long time, I was overwhelmed with such extravagant beauty. Truth of the gospel and the desire Christ had for me to stop running and return home to a relationship with Him, collided in my heart that night. I have never been the same since. Praise God!
You see, I was so much like the son who was lost because I too had left “home” in the prodigal son story found in Luke 15. I thought I could manage on my own and did not really need a relationship with my Heavenly Father. I had plenty and mentally sat God on a shelf, telling Him I would return when I was older. Little did my young self know that God is not shelf size, but He is patient. So while I ran and lived an empty life, He waited at home. I know His gaze saw all my wandering, but lovingly watched for my heart to return. One turn in the direction of home and my feet knew instinctively the way back. And boy did He come running and meet me on the road!
As a girl my return speech sounded very similar to the prodigal son. “I’ll get up and go to my father, and say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no know longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired workers.” (Luke 15:18-19). If my Heavenly Father would have met me that night and immediately put me to work, maybe to pay for my foolish living, I would not have felt loved at all. I would rather have felt tolerated and provided for out of obligation. The striving to be enough in my fathers eyes would have lasted a lifetime with that kind of welcome home. However, that is not what happened at all for me or for the son of this story. “But while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20).
You know what happened next in this homecoming? Well, the son spilled out his rehearsed speech, but the father did not even acknowledge it. “But the father told his servants, ‘Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then bring the fattened calf and slaughter it, let’s celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found! So they began to celebrate.” (Luke 15:22-24). And just like that kid, I was restored and welcomed back home too.
Now I can not say that everyday since has been a celebration. No, there has been plenty of foolishness on my part. I have needed to be reminded again to, “See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with festive robes.” (Zechariah 3:4). There have been times of starving instead of feasting on the Word of God. There have been times of worry and fear instead of remembering who my Heavenly Father is and how He is faithful. I need to remind my heart that He loves me and knows what my needs are and how to best meet them for His glory and my good. One glance down at my left hand should be enough to spark the memory of the ring of a covenant Him and I share. I belong to Him and He belongs to me.
And just like the good Father that He is, as we put our daughter on the bus, we witnessed a stunning double rainbow. “I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” (Genesis 9:13). Regardless of the message the rainbow is representing today, this was the original purpose. So, to me the rainbow was just the kindness of the Lord to remember and He brought this verse to mind, “Know that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps His gracious covenant loyalty for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His command.” Deuteronomy 7:9. God ran to meet me that night at camp and I was finally home. My daughter is now experiencing this beautiful place, but as a child who knows home already. She will join in the celebration of many who are just hearing and meeting their Heavenly Father for the first time or with ones who are returning home. Now that is extravagant faithful, love and worthy of a celebration!!
And one more thing. I pray our homes become places of celebration. I ask of the Lord to make us parents with open arms, embracing our children in whatever shape they are in. Move our hearts towards our children and anyone needing to know the way Home. May we all love with extravagance as dearly loved children, who see others as worth loving. Open our eyes to see those who have returned, but might need a reminder of the robe of righteousness they now wear because of the cross. Bless us, Heavenly Father, with the best week of our lives here or in Colorado.
*Thank you Kim Rogers for the picture!!!!