“So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” Luke 15:20 NIV
There is nothing like the sweetness of an embrace. It is especially sweet when the years and miles have separated you from that special someone for far too long.
The story of the prodigal son has been close to my heart over the last thirteen years as both of my sons chose to go their own way and rebel and, as a result, struggled with addiction.
The young man in this story was given every opportunity to have a good life but thought his way was better, so off he ran to enjoy a life of partying and squandering everything his father had worked hard to give him.
Sounds familiar, huh?
How we’ve struggled to understand why our beloved children and family members would walk away from the love and security of their family to a life of risk and self-destruction. It is beyond our comprehension.
But this is not just a story about the prodigal.
It is about the father, the parent, the mother, the spouse.
It is about YOU.
What stands out to me in this story was not the son's rebellion, but the father's compassion. It was not so much about the son’s repentance, as it was his father’s acceptance.
Before a single apology or word of remorse was spoken, his father SAW him off in the distance and RAN to him, EMBRACED him, and KISSED him. His father could do this because he had already FORGIVEN him.
I encourage you to see the real message here.
While probably tempted to do so, the father did not go after his son when the son chose to leave the safety of his father's home. He did not pursue him and drag him back. He may have not even known where his son was or if he was even alive.
Instead, the father let him learn his own lessons and suffer the consequences of his choices. The hardest part of letting go of someone is to not change your mind and go after them, isn't it?
How this father must have struggled with the desire to go after his boy. Or maybe he was so angry, he never wanted to see him again.
Either way, God was working on his heart, preparing him for the day his lost son would return home.
To have the heart he had for his son when he came to his senses and returned home, he had to have been working on his OWN heart and attitude.
He may have rehearsed many times how he would let that kid have it if he ever saw him again. But over time, his heart softened.
God was changing him! God was transforming his heart and his mind. God had forgiven him and in doing so, he could love and forgive just like Christ loved and forgave him.
Because Jesus has forgiven us, we can do the same for those who have crushed our spirits and broken our hearts. We can prepare for their return by preparing our hearts to receive them by being open to restoration in the relationship.
Humility and forgiveness lead the path to reconciliation
To heal broken relationships, we must first let the Lord transform us by having an attitude of humility.
Second, we need to grasp how much the Lord loves us and our loved one. Next, we must accept God's forgiveness for our own words and actions as we extend forgiveness to the one who has hurt us so deeply.
Finally, we need to have open hearts that are prepared for restoration when the time comes.
I encourage you during this time when your child or loved one is off doing his (her) own thing, to keep your own heart open.
We gratitude and thanksgiving, thank our Lord for his faithfulness to restore that which is broken. Pray that you will be able to hope again that restoration is possible for your child or loved one, both to God and to you and your family.
Even if your loved one is in a good, but "far-off" place, let God do his work in you. Perhaps today you can reflect on all the "distant" places God has brought you back from.