Tuesday, October 25, 2011

When is Your Birthday?

I was just reading the story of the prodigal son, found in the Bible.  It is one of those very popular Bible  stories that I've heard it many many times.  However, today I've pointed something out that I didn't really see there before.

Okay, so to wrap it up in a nutshell, here's the way the story goes.  A man had two sons.  The younger one claimed his inheritance before it was time because he wanted to venture out into the world and make due with what was rightfully his.  And so the father did not deny him the request, and the son went out and splurged on everything and anyone foul.  As a result, he foolishly wasted all of his money on "dead-end" things, and ended up with not even a bite to eat.  He hit rock bottom, when he finally mustered up the courage to go back home.  (Ever been there?)

And so off he went on a venture back home, taking with him his only baggage: guilt and shame, repentance and a humble heart.  He had, indeed, learned his lesson the hard way.  And it must have been a very long and difficult walk, not knowing what the response from his family would be.  He couldn't stop to call or text or facebook dad to give him a heads up that he was on his way.  Instead, he made the long walk home.  Actually, he didn't make it all the way home, when his father spotted him and ran to him.

His father not only ran to him, but he greeted and embraced him with immense joy.  So much so, that he called for a party.  He ordered his servants to prepare the best meat in the house and to invite friends and neighbors, so as to throw the biggest bash in honor of his "prodigal son".  It was as if they were to celebrate a birthday.  In essence, the prodigal son had been reborn and renewed.  It was a birthday celebration! --Luke 15:22-24, "But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him.  Put a ring on hi finger and sandals on his feet.  Bring the fattened calf and kill it.  Let's have a feast and celebrate.  For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate."

The story goes on to say that the older brother was very jealous and bitter about the way the father treated his brother.  However, what I find most revealing and moving is the part when the father took back his son. You see, I am in awe of how loving and open this father was toward his "spoiled" son.  And as a parent myself, I know of many other ways that I may have handled the same situation.  In fact, I think this father had many other options.
He could have gone inside the house and closed the doors, when he spotted the son drawing closer.
He could have asked the son to quietly leave.
He could have drilled the son with questions about his whereabouts. (that would have been my natural choice)
He could have yelled.  He could have shouted.  He could have turned his back.
Lastly, he could have politely asked his son to go get cleaned up before taking him in.  I would have.  Wouldn't you?
Isn't that what we do?  We want people to act right, before we can consider them acceptable. We want them to clean up their acts and look right, before we can welcome them in.
What's even worse, is that Christians do this, and churches do this as well.

And he could have... but he didn't.
And what's more, God didn't.

When I was a little girl, I remember having great respect for my father.  Well, actually it was mostly fear.  I revered him at times, but mostly I was just afraid of his response to my wrongful behavior.  And there was plenty of wrongful behavior, even at at young age.  I specifically remember that my father did not allow me to play outside.  He wanted me to be indoor, while I hated the indoors.  And so, I'd play outside as long as I could, before noticing him on his way home from work down the road from our home.  Even my friends knew to alert me, if they saw my dad coming down the street.  Most of the time, I'd be inside, before he'd catch me breaking the rule.  Yet, there were those regrettable times, when he'd catch me before I could run inside.  And it was on those days, that I'd get my spanking.
And so I learned to either walk a very straight line to impress my father, or to be prepared for the worse if I broke his rules.  I received the worse many times.

You see, that is why I am in awe of the father's love for the prodigal son.  Hence, it  is obviously, an illustration of God's love for us.  The truth is that, as much as our earthly fathers may love us, none could compare to our Heavenly Father's affections for us.
I wished my dad had accepted me that way.  I wished he'd receive me with open arms, even when I was at fault.  I wished...

Fortunately, God did.

And after reading the story today, I could actually visualize God celebrating my return to Him.  Celebrating my repentant heart, just like the father in the story did.  He celebrated my return, and He celebrates every time another lost child comes back home to Him.  He throws a birthday party on our behalf!  And He doesn't ask us to take care of the "check list" beforehand.  He simply awaits us.  He longs for us.  He runs to us.  He finds us.  He embraces us and takes us in.  And then, as if that wasn't enough, He celebrates!

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