I can’t believe Easter has come and gone again. The Good News of the Resurrected Jesus, however, is never gone. It stays with us as the source of our hope in this valley of shadows and tears. As we wrap up the season, I still have a couple of posts left on the subject of Grace as illustrated in the parables found in Luke 15. Today, I want to take another look at the Father in the story of the lost son.
“…he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”
Luke 15: 20b
The Father “ran to his son…”
What a wonderful picture. We have probably heard all about how in Middle Eastern cultures men of stature, wealth and high social status don’t run. Running is beneath them under any circumstances. So for the audience of Pharisees and Teachers of the Law the idea of a stately Father running was despicable and unthinkable.
I sort of relate to the unthinkable nature of such idea as well. When I think of my own father, I can honestly say that I don’t remember ever seeing him running. In matters of urgency, he would walk really fast. He would stretch his long legs to cover a mile wide of ground with every step, but that was about it. See, my Father was this imposing figure, larger than life in a sense, not because he was loud and lively, but because he was solid and seemingly unshakable, with an impeccable reputation for integrity and dignity impossible to corrupt. In our little town, my father was a highly respected man. And when he died, the entire town mourned him, giving him a funeral fit for a beloved statesman. So it kind of goes with what we are saying about Middle Eastern customs. After all, my Father was Spanish, and Spain is heavily influenced by the Arab culture.
At any rate, the point is that my Dad didn’t really run. However, there was one thing he always did: he waited for me. He waited for me every afternoon to meet me down the driveway when I came home from school.
Due to high-enrollment, my middle school/high school operated in shifts. Some grades would go in the morning and some others would attend school in the afternoon. From 9th to 12th grade, I attended the afternoon shift. Therefore, I’d come home around 6:00 p.m. At that time, my Dad was back home already from work, so he would sit out in the front porch, in this totally vintage, white and blue metal swing to swing the time away until I came home. I rode on this ridiculous, refrigerator-looking-type of minivan which passed for a school bus. The thing didn’t have the horse power to climb the rather steep driveway in my house, so the driver would just drop me off at the bottom, on the street, and I’ll have to walk up the hilly paved entrance to get home. As soon as my Dad would see the “bus” he’d get up from his swing and start the trek downhill to greet me. We’d meet somewhere below the middle and we’d walk up the driveway together, his arm around my shoulders.
During the last year of his life, my Dad’s ability to move became greatly diminished. Not only didn’t he run, but he couldn’t walk either. He was confined to a wheel chair, which for him was utterly devastating. By then, long gone were the days he’d waited for me sitting out in the front porch to greet me after school. At the time, however, he was, indeed, still waiting. He was dealing with the profound agony of having technically, for all purposes, lost his son…not to death but to a misguided decision on the part of my brother. My Dad waited for his lost son day and night. He longed for him. The pain that such loss brought to my Dad’s soul was unbearable, and it eventually drilled deeper into his heart until there was nothing left. I know, however, if my Dad had gotten the opportunity to see his dream of watching my brother come in the driveway become a reality…he would have stood up from that chair and ran to meet him, defying all odds and breaking every conventions.
The dream never came true. I never saw my Dad run to embrace my brother one last time. But unlike my Father, Our Heavenly Father does come down that steep, long driveway of sinfulness and darkness to meet us and embrace us the second our shadow hits the far end of the road. Grace wins, and the Good Father always welcomes His returning beloved back home with open arms. Not only does He welcomes us back…He runs to meet us, hugs us and kiss us.