I haven't seen my parents in almost 3 years, though i think our relationships with each other have grown stronger - and thus our missing each other heavier.
Everyone involved in my surprise appearance in my parents' church on Sunday morning expected there would be tears and happy exclamation and whatnot. Even i didn't anticipate quite the emotional welcome i received.
I had spent the previous days worrying with how to pack and what to wear to church on Sunday and whether the people here would like me o.k. and whether i was wearing too much make-up, or whether i'm just way too fat to be liked or if. . . BLAH BLAH BLAH.
Have you ever read the story of the Prodigal son in Luke 15? Let me cut it short for you:
Old man has two sons; young stupid son demands his inheritance, runs off to Vegas, blows all the money on entirely stupid ventures, ends up sharing food with poorly fed swine, and finally decides to go back to his father and beg to be allowed to be one of his father's servants so that he can at least get better food. Here's the last line of the actual scripture, in which, by the way, Vegas is not actually mentioned:
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.
Unlike the prodigal son in this story, i did not go away and squander the inheritance or buy prostitutes in Vegas or other ridiculous nonsense. I was simply missed. Like the prodigal son, however, i was thinking ridiculous things, reasons i might not be accepted by my family, who had given me no reason to think that they would ever do anything but accept me and love me totally, no matter what. Here's my real-life version of my part of the verse i just shared above.
But while she was still at the back of the church, her parents recognized her, saw no one but else her, as they charged to where she was standing. When they found her, they fell upon her with hugs and with kisses, with tears and with joy, and with disbelief, and would not let go for about ten minutes.
Now, let's get deep for a minute. Can you handle it?
I am aware enough to know that a sad and large percentage of the humans on the earth were not parented by people who did a very good job of demonstrating unconditional love to their children. I know this, and the comparison i'm about to make still works for all those people, so keep reading.
My parents have done an excellent job, as humans go, at showing me the love of God in my lifetime -- of demonstrating to me some comparison of the unconditional love of God. But even then, since we're all human, and i know my parents, i know that they're are flawed. And i mean FLAWED (this is the part of the post where i keep them from letting my accolades give them a big head). What i'm saying is that my parents are human beings on the planet Earth, where we are all FLAWED.
So i was thinking about the prodigal son again. When Jesus told this story, He was making a comparison to the love of the Father God to all those who have forgotten about His love and His provision and have run off to Vegas to gamble and buy prostitutes. (Again, there's no actual Vegas in the Bible, but the principle stands.) It's about how the son thought that there was no way that the father would ever allow him to be part of his family again. He wasn't worthy. He had dishonored his father and his family in shameful and unmentionable ways. There was no reason for the father in this story to ever allow this son to even be in his presence.
But these thoughts were absolutely ludicrous to the father, just as they are to the Father. His love is unconditional. That means it is freely given, withOUT conditions. It was the son's decision to return home that brought about the reunion. It was the son's running away that caused the separation. It was the son's choice. The father loved him through all of it, but the father could not force the son to stay home where the food is good and love abounds. The son had to choose to return to abundance.
Now back to me.
My parents were REALLY happy to see me. It was a little like i had been lost at sea or something.
Anyway, i'm getting to a point here. I know that my dad, specifically, is known to be a little on the emotional side (people love to do cool stuff for him 'cause it makes him cry tears of joy and get all verklempt). But listen - or read, whatever. If my dad and mom could love me so much that they respond to my presence with such great emotion. If people could buy the story about the earthly dad loving his son (like, the worst son ever) enough to welcome him home with kissess and hugs and a multi-day feast. Then, to quote Jesus, "how much more," must the Father, God, be eager and ready to run to any of us who choose to live in His house. It turns out that He just doesn't care what we're wearing, or how fat we are, or where we've been, or how incredibly stupid we are . . . He's just so glad that we decided to come home!