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This blog posting is dedicated to those who wait … and to those who are on the journey Home.
As recorded in Luke 15:11-32, Jesus told the story of the Prodigal Son. Many have viewed this story from the vantage point of the prodigal son or perhaps as the stay at home son. Rarely do we give much thought to the waiting father.
We can easily see how the Father represents God The Father, Who loves us, eagerly anticipates our return, forgives and takes us back into the fold.
But when the father in the story is viewed from another angle, it is possible to see him as a very fallible, profoundly human Dad. Today I invite you to come along on the journey of the waiting Dad.
We don’t know what prompted one son to want to leave home and what prompted the other to stay. We can infer there must have been some relationship between the father and his sons for the younger son to so boldly ask for his inheritance.
If we look closely, we find the son really did not ask. He demanded. He believed he was entitled to something and he wanted it on the spot. He did not want to wait.
There is a big difference in receiving something through entitlement and receiving something as a gift from a loving benefactor. Satan leads many people off the path by whispering, “You should have what you want now. You’ve worked hard for it. You are better than the rest of these people. You should not be at the mercy of someone who may or may not give you a gift. What if they don’t come through? You deserve to have what you want now!”
Entitlement is about us. It has to do with what we believe we did or have that qualifies us to receive. Receiving a gift is about the generosity of the giver and the gratitude we feel toward the giver.
Sometimes being entitled is not a good thing. Paul speaks clearly of a time when we very likely would not want what we are entitled to. In contrast, Paul also speaks of the Joy of receiving a Gift to which we are not entitled in ourselves alone.
For the wages of sin is death,
but the Gift of God is Eternal Life in Christ Jesus our Lord!
The Prodigal Son Jesus described had not yet learned about unmerited favor. He undoubtedly had received many gifts from his father. He had come to expect them. Over time, satan had convinced him he deserved the gifts. The more he received, the more he wanted. Gratitude slowly morphed into Entitlement.
Satan was then in a perfect position to make his next move. Entitlement turns our focus away from the Giver onto the Gift. If we are not careful, we will find ourselves doing just what the Prodigal Son did. We will demand all we can get and leave The One Who gave it to us.
Gotta Go! Not Sure of When, if Ever, I’ll Be Back!
Even though there was no please or thank you, the father gave the younger son his inheritance. Why? Perhaps because he enjoyed seeing his son’s delight. Being able to delight another person can become an addiction in itself. The other person not only delights in the gift, but at the beginning, they delight in us as well. That feels good!
But, as noted, gradually the recipient’s focus shifts to the gift. And we have to do more and more for them to notice us. Perhaps the father believed he would have many more days of seeing his son delight in his inheritance. The story does not say the son said anything about having any plans to leave his father.
However, the son didn’t stay around very long after getting his inheritance. Perhaps he was bored. Perhaps he didn’t like the idea that his father could see how he was using the money. But in any case, being in his father’s presence with the inheritance was not enough for the son. He left home.
So How Did That Work Out?
The son, we’ll call Andy, went to a far country. He really need not have worried about whether his father would come to town to check up on him. But just in case, Andy went to a far country. There, he sought everything he thought would make him happy.
Perhaps Andy experienced moments when he really believed he had found what or who would make him happy. But it didn’t last. His inheritance dwindled day by day. Not only was there a famine in Andy’s personal life, but the country around him also experienced a famine. He could not find employment or any way to make more money. And he was too proud to go home.
Finally Andy hired himself out as a citizen of the country in which he was living. Note: when you hire yourself out in the city of sin, you do get paid. You get just what you are entitled to get. Andy ended up feeding pigs. Alone, dirty, with no friends, he knew the party was over.
Andy began to wonder why his father had not come for him. Why had his father not at least sent someone to find him? The full realization of life without the father began to sink in. At first Andy was frightened at the thought.
Then he was angry. His father had much more money than just the inheritance. If his father had the resources to fix Andy’s life, why would he just withhold it? A pig poked Andy from behind. He popped the food he was going to give the pig in his own mouth, as he thought, “I can’t stand these animals. All they want is more and more. What selfish creatures they are!”
Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch …
So where was Dad? How could he just let his son go? After time passed with no word, did he go look for him? No, he didn’t.
While the father, who we will call Joe, did not physically go to the place where his son was, he was with him every moment in spirit. His big heart ached and longed for his son. Joe reviewed every moment of his time with Andy, wondering if the goodly inheritance of The Word of God was enough to cover the monetary inheritance that no doubt would disappear quickly.
Joe wondered if wolves or robbers had destroyed his son. He awoke in the night to what he believed were the sounds of Andy calling him. And yet …
He waited and trusted the Only One Who could give his son a lasting inheritance. He deliberately chose not to attempt to take the place of God. He simply trusted God to bring his son home.
But What If …
The Lessons learned while waiting were not just for Andy. The Lessons were for Joe too. While he started the wait in great faith, as more time passed, he began to hear a voice that was not God The Father or Andy, his son.
In dark moments, satan came to Joe and assured him he had been a terrible parent. Satan called to mind every failure, every misstep and told Joe he was paying for his bad parenting.
One moment Satan told him he had been too soft. He reminded him that if he had not been so free to give his son gifts, the son would never have had the nerve to demand his inheritance. He reminded Joe his son had not even had the good manners to say “please” when he asked. And there had been no “thank you” when he received.
In the next moment, satan told him he had been too tough on his son. He told him his son would not have wanted to leave home in the first place if he, the father, had made it a more comfortable place to live.
Then satan moved in for the kill. He whispered, “He’s never coming home again. And it won’t be because of wild animals or wild people. He simply doesn’t love you anymore. He doesn’t want to be with you. He only loved you as long as you had something to give him.”
Joe faced a new possibility he had never considered. What if his son never wanted to be in his presence again? His hands shook. He felt a cold sweat run down his neck. He had the urge to run into town and begin an intensive search for Andy. Joe felt an emotion beyond just longing for his son. He felt he needed his son immediately.
Joe was too far into panic to realize he was experiencing the same emotions as Andy. He felt a desperate need for something (someone) who he believed God should deliver to him now. Weren’t children a gift from God? Surely God would not take his son … or would He?
With every step toward the road, Joe felt the Restraining Hand of his Father God, Who said, “Wait. Let Me handle this.” Days turned into weeks. Joe grieved. And his Father God comforted him.
Do You Love Me?
But Joe continued to ask his Father God the one thing he wanted to know so desperately. He no longer asked if he would see his son again. He only wanted to know, “Does my son love me?”
His Father God only countered with the question for him, “Joe, do you love Me?” Joe always answered yes, but then he went back to his own question.
His Father God waited patiently. Then He asked Joe again, “Do you love Me?” From the place of exhaustion and unfulfilled dreams, Joe answered weakly, “Yes, Father I love You.”
The Father God asked, “Why?”
Joe was silent. It was a question too big to answer.
The Father God continued. “Do you love Me because of what I give you?”
Joe answered quickly, “No, of course not.”
The Father God cupped Joe’s face in His Hands.
“If I never give you what you so desperately want, will you still love Me?”
Joe replied, “If you love me, would you not want to give me what I want?”
The Father God asked softly, “How did that approach work out between you and your son?”
Let Me Go!
Joe turned away and contemplated putting together a search party for Andy. Maybe if he found him and gave him a bit more, maybe his son would finally understand his generosity. Maybe he would once again feel the love of his child.
Joe started for the road toward town. But a great storm came up. Thunder roared. Lightening lit up the sky. Great trees toppled over. Joe shook in fear. Wiping his rain soaked face, he shouted into the darkness, “I must go and find my son. Perhaps he is hurt. I don’t want him to be alone and afraid. I have always been there for him during the storms.”
Father God held Joe in His Arms. “Trust Me,” He said.
“Is he safe?”
Father God said again, “Trust Me.”
It was many days before the trees were cleared away from the road, but eventually the way was clear again. Joe packed a few supplies and started once again on the road to town. But on the way, he fell over a remaining tree limb and sprained his ankle. Once again, Joe’s trip to town was delayed.
Father God came to him again and asked, “Do you love Me?”
Joe said again, “Of course, I love you. But I’m starting to wonder if you really love me. You took my son and now you refuse to bring him home or let me go to him. How can that be love?”
Once again, Father God asked, “Do you love Me for Me or for what I can give you?”
Joe fell to his knees. “I don’t want anything from You, but my son. This is all I will ever ask You, that my son returns to me and that I will once again feel the joy of his being home.”
The Father held Joe a little closer and whispered, “That is exactly what I want too. I want your complete Love, Joe. I want you to trust Me, even when you don’t see The Gifts I am giving you. I want you to see Me and love Me, as completely as I love you.”
As much as Joe wanted Andy, he realized that he wanted his Father even more. His Father God had given Joe so many gifts, but he had not been able to open them all, by himself. Joe also realized, with a start, that he had done a lot of looking at the Gifts and not so much at the Giver.
In the Light of his Father’s Presence, He saw all the Gifts God had given him. As wonderful as they were, they paled in comparison to the One Who had given them.
Among the Gifts, one stood out. It was Andy, so precious and so creatively made in every detail. God The Father stood quietly by, as Joe enjoyed Andy’s smiles, laughs and stories about life. He saw his boldness, his sense of adventure, his willingness to forge new paths.
The Father spoke. “He’s quite a wonder, isn’t he, Joe? And I’m not done yet. I’ve got wonderful plans for him … and for you. But you’ve got to let Me work. You’ve got to let Me do what I do best. You’ve got to be willing to let Me be Me and realize you are not entitled to be Me, even to the son you love so much.
Are you willing to wait on Me, Joe? Are you willing to trust Me?”
And so Joe waited. Periodically The Father God would give Joe a glimpse of the Andy He was continuing to create. Joe used to love it when people would say Andy looked like him. But now each time The Father God gave Joe a peek at His Continuing Creation, Joe noticed Andy was looking more and more like the Father God and less like him. Joe smiled at the transformation. He was changing too. But somehow he looked like his Father God in a different way from Andy.
It was ok. Joe felt at peace. But he was human. While he trusted God The Father, he still missed Andy. Many times a day, Joe looked down the road, expecting Andy to come home. As many times, Joe returned to his house alone.
One Glad Morning
At first Joe thought it was a speck in the distance. But, as he continued to look, it became apparent it was a man running down the road. Joe felt the old anticipation rise up in him. There had been so many times he felt this way and been disappointed. He felt as if he were trying to stifle the feeling.
But no, this time was different! The man was getting closer … and it was … Andy! Joe didn’t even put on his shoes. He ran to the road and opened his arms wide. It would have been enough just to have that moment of familiar embrace, but what he heard filled his heart to overflowing.
“Daddy, I love you. I know I’m no longer entitled to be your son. I won’t ask you for anything, if I can just come home.”
Joe felt the Words of his Father God coming through his mouth. They were Words for both Joe and his son.
“I am honored to be your Father and I love you with all my heart. Welcome home!”
And on that day, The Father God smiled, as He welcomed two prodigal sons Home!
Points to Ponder
Do you love God for Who He is to you or for what He gives you?
Can you love someone who has the resources to help you, but chooses not to? Can you believe God loves you, even when He does not meet your every demand?
When you give gifts, are they given as God’s Hands Extended or are they given for other reasons?
Are you willing to wait for God to continue to create you and your family into His Image?
Is there someone whose presence you are missing? Pray for that person right now and surrender them to God’s Perfect Plan.
Is it time for you to come home? Will you trust God to guide you on your journey?