Imagine the pain of loving two people who refuse to love each other. Love is one thing on this earth that is not subject to economics or basic math. We don’t have a limited amount of love that we need to dole out responsibly; we have as much of it as we chose to give away. I remember being afraid the night before my second son was born. My fear was that I’d never be able to love my second son as much as I loved my first. It was literally love at first sight. What I learned was that my younger son made our family more complete. I would always love them differently, but I would always love each of them with my whole being.

I do not understand why the parable is entitled “The Prodigal Son”. While I do see far too much of myself in each of the sons, the focus of the story is on the Father. This story is the best picture Jesus gives us of his heavenly father.

It is the story of a Father who desperately loved two very different boys, both of whom rejected him. One of those boys left the physical presence of his father; the other refused relationship with his father. That father anxiously awaited the return of his sons: one from a “far country”, the other from the field. Perhaps the most incredible line in this story is “When he was a long way off…” Oh how the father must have grieved the absence of a son who had rejected him, who did not deserve his love or the respect of this family, yet he still scanned the horizon constantly, hoping against hope that his son would return. How many nights did that father look at the empty chair at his dinner table and feel fresh grief at the son’s foolish, selfish choices? What family celebrations were incomplete without this precious son’s presence? How many nights did that father fall asleep praying for that son’s safety and protection? How many tears did he shed begging God to bring him back home? This young man didn’t deserve his father’s love when he left, and he didn’t deserve it when he returned. But the Father “runs” to meet that son and doesn’t even let that son finish his well rehearsed speech before forgiving him and restoring him into full fellowship with the family. He was awfully quick to locate the sandals and robe and ring….wonder if he’d kept them handy, just in case. And then he threw a huge party to celebrate the return of a son who still doesn’t deserve his love. But sadly, he’s still missing a son. He went to the field to ask the older son to come inside and make the family celebration complete, but was refused. How often during the party did that father look at the door, hoping to see his older son rejoining the family? The Father shows no pride in this story, but he chooses to love boys whose pride separates him from them. He doesn’t insist on proof of change as a prerequisite of his love; he just wants both boys to come home.

God values each of us individually, and loves us freely and unconditionally. Where did you go when you were a “long way off” from God? May we never separate ourselves from the one who loves us, who desires fellowship with us, and who never stops watching for us to return to him…no matter where we’ve been or how we’ve treated him.