Active Faith

The Seeking Father

"Our Heavenly Father longs for all of His children to return to Him. He waits, even now. And His suffering will turn to joy when we head for Home." by John Stewart

Although the Prodigal Son has provided both the protagonist and the usual title for the best-known parable told by Jesus, the father in the story is perhaps the most important character of all. He represents God Himself, the heavenly Father.

Like our faithful creator, the prodigal’s father provided all of the capital which the son wasted in “riotous living.” Like our faithful God who desires that none should perish, but rather that all should come to repentance, the father had unconditional love for his wandering child. Like our forgiving Savior, the old gentleman welcomed home the child who had so glibly departed but who so humbly came home.

The story recorded in Luke’s gospel says that while the son “was still a long way off, his father saw him.” Can’t you imagine the old man sitting on his front porch every day, scanning the horizon for a stirring of dust or a tiny figure in the distance, either one of which would indicate that someone was coming—and it might be his son?

I can imagine night after night the father lighting a candle and placing it in a window as a beacon, just in case the wanderer might be coming home.

On the happiest day, the father stands on the front porch, as he did many times before, and sees a speck moving in the distance. He watches it intently. Hope leaps within him, and the rate of his pulse increases. This looks like it may be his long-lost son.

The man coming up the path is thinner than the boy who went away. His step is slow, and he uses a staff to maintain his balance and to keep moving.

The father strains his eyes. He’s been disappointed before, and he doesn’t want his hopes to rise too high, only to have them dashed again.

But this looks like his son. He’s sure it’s his son. And even though he’s still a quarter of a mile away, the old man takes a step toward him. Then another. In a matter of moments, he’s running full speed to greet his wayward son.

As he runs, he remembers the love he lavished on his son when he was just a boy. Those same feelings of love and compassion, of caring and concern, come rushing into his heart and mind. He calls out from the agony and the joy that are intermingled in his soul, “My son. My son!”

And then they meet.

A loving father comes face-to-face with a son who has lived like a fool, who has brought disgrace on the family name, who has forgotten the commandment to honor father and mother. He’s dirty and unshaven, he’s embarrassed and ashamed, and he falls at his father’s feet to seek forgiveness.

But the father’s not looking for explanations or groveling. This is the greatest day of his life. His son, who was lost, is found. His son, who was dead, is alive. He pulls the younger man to his feet and throws his arms around him in a bear hug. And he gives him a kiss of love and forgiveness.

How well I remember the Thursday evening supper hour of a special day in my life. My wife and I were living in an apartment in Chicago. One of our sons had been away at school, and following graduation, he decided to stay in the town where he was living. He had no job and little money. He was housed in a cheap hotel and was living a lifestyle that broke our hearts. We had urged him to come home, but for reasons best known to himself, he chose to stay in the “far country.”

On that Thursday evening, we were just finishing our evening meal when the door buzzer sounded. My wife pressed the “talk” button and asked, “Who’s there?”

The response brought us unfathomable joy. He didn’t say his name. He didn’t ask, “May I come in?” He simply said, “I’m home.”

On that evening I felt the same joy that filled the heart of the Prodigal Son’s father. My son was home as was his.

There’s no need for many words at a time like that. Just to hold the returned child in one’s arms speaks volumes.

Our Heavenly Father wants to share His best with all His children. If you’ve been far from Him, please know that He never has ceased to wish for your return. Indeed, His heart has been broken by your waywardness.

The late Dr. Dennis Kinlaw told the story of an incident involving his daughter Sally. Sally and her husband had a ministry in Paris. One evening Sally and several of her friends were enjoying themselves in a café, chatting and laughing as they ate.

They were approached by a fellow diner, a Parisian businessman, who said, “Your happiness is obscene. In a world where there is so much suffering and agony, it is wrong to display laughter and joy in public.”

One of Sally’s friends, a Christian, said to the man, “What you need to do is pray.”

“Pray?” the man asked. “Pray? I’ve prayed more than any of you.” And then he unfolded a story of his little daughter who was suffering from a fatal and incurable disease. He told of the agony of standing at her bedside and watching strength and life itself ebb out of her helpless body. He told of praying with all his heart that God would work a miracle, but his daughter grew steadily worse.

Then one of the friends, a young lady who herself had suffered both physical and emotional disaster, spoke. “God hurts more than you do,” she said.

And then she asked a penetrating question. “When you see your daughter lying there, who hurts most—you or her?”

The man was weeping now. “She’s unconscious much of the time,” he said. “I’m sure I suffer more than she does.”

“And God hurts more than you do,” the friend added.

________

It wasn’t pleasant for the Prodigal Son, feeding swine in the Far Country. But the father was suffering more than the son.

Our Heavenly Father longs for all of His children to return to Him. He waits, even now. And His suffering will turn to joy when we head for Home.

Comments

ALL ARTICLES