A few weeks ago my husband was approaching one of those milestone birthdays that have a nought on the end! As my daughter and I were contemplating how to make the celebration special, she said, `Mum, the best thing for Dad would be if Dan came home!` Dan is her brother, our son, who lives in Australia. I knew she was right. And so began a series of secret Skype calls to Dan, and covert planning for him to make a surprise visit home on the big day.
Roger wasn’t particularly looking forward to his birthday, but I’ll never forget the look of utter disbelief, unexpected joy and pure delight all rolled into one, that immediately spread across his face the moment he opened the door and saw his son standing there smiling broadly, having come all the way from the other side of the world! Sam was right – absolutely nothing else could or would have blessed Roger more.
It’s not a complete reflection of the story Jesus told of the prodigal son, since Dan had never left us in rebellion and, unlike the father in the story, Roger wasn’t looking out, waiting expectantly for him to come home. But I did see something of the same `father heart of God` response as I looked at his face and watched him fling his arms round his son, and they stood and hugged each other again and again.
I’ve pondered a lot on that scene. It was a one-off: it took a lot of planning and was a special occasion with a surprise element. Yet because of what Jesus has done for every single one of us, we can come to our heavenly Father (Ephesians 2:18) again and again at any time, knowing that undiluted welcome is always waiting for us. His arms are forever open wide to greet us, and His response is one of complete joy and pure delight – simply because we have come. It’s what He made us for and nothing blesses Him more.
In reality, there are times when we wonder if He’s really there, we wonder if He hears us … if He’s interested. Does He really care? Will He answer if I pray? But our fears are unfounded. Just as there was never any doubt in Dan’s mind about how his Dad would respond when he saw him (and, of course, his Dad’s love is only a very watered down version of our Father God’s love) there need never be any doubt in our minds about how our Father God will respond to us when we come to Him. We only have to look at the story of the prodigal. He waits for us, looks for us, runs towards us with His arms open wide to greet us, with compassion, mercy, unfailing love and faithfulness (Exodus 34:6). What a privilege. What a comfort to belong to Him.
Prayer: Father God, I’m sorry for the times I’ve doubted you and your love for me. Thank you for the truth that every time I come to you, you’re already waiting for me, you welcome me, you accept me, take joy in me and love me so much. Please help me to grow in my relationship with you, so that those doubts lose their ground and I become truly confident in who I am as your adopted child, through the shed blood of Jesus. In His precious Name, Amen.
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