I’ve been thinking and writing a lot lately about the wonder, the priceless gift that is Christmas. However, I know that while this is intended to be a season of peace and joy, for many people Christmas can come with a fresh ache for hearts that are already hurting and wounded.
I know just last week, a friend of mine ached to see the face of her son. Her son whom she has nurtured and cherished since the day he was born. Her son who has always graced the rim of her table at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Her son who has allowed pride and anger to fork a painful wedge between himself and a family that loves him.
As my thoughts and prayers have hovered over my friend, over my own desire for the true experience of Christmas, I can’t help but remember the parable of the prodigal son.
My own children are still too young to turn from me, and I pray this is a hurt I will never know, but even still I know what it’s like to watch friends and family members, dreams and desires turn their backs and run.
I know what it’s like to feel powerless to stop them.
I know what it’s like to wait, and watch, and hope for that someday, that time when maybe things will be different. When maybe they’ll turn and come home. Home to a heart, my heart, that has never stopped loving.
When I read the parable of the prodigal son it’s easy to focus on the role the son played in the story, and certainly there is much to be learned from the foolishness of his ways. But I think that the father has much to teach us as well.
“So he [the prodigal son] returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.” Luke 15:20 (emphasis mine)
When I read this verse I can picture the father standing on his doorstep or at a window scanning the horizon, watching and waiting with hopeful eyes for any sign of his son. I can imagine him doing this every morning as the sun begins to rise. I can imagine him doing this in the afternoon as he pauses in his work. I can imagine him doing this in the evening, at sunset, before darkness makes it impossible to see.
Day after day. Again and again. Until one day…in the distance…he sees it! The very thing he has watched, and waited, and hoped for. His son, come home!
Of course, I don’t know any of this for sure. Perhaps it was purely coincidence that he spied his son in the distance. But I do know my own heart. I do know that when it comes to friends, and family, and dreams that have wandered away from me, wandered away from the heart of Christ, I look for them. I hope for them. I pray, and wait, and watch for God to bring them home.
So I ask you, this Christmas season, what’s your prodigal son? Is it your own son or daughter? A friend? A dream, or desire gone irreparably wrong?
Whatever it is, take heart! Just as the father waited and watched expectantly for his son, wait and watch expectantly for what God can and will do.
Our God, he doesn’t waste a thing, and he works, always works, in the waiting. He works in the lives and hearts of the ones we love. And he works in our hearts as well.
As Christmas dinners are eaten, as presents are unwrapped, as the ache in the heart flares, and tears, and bleeds, don’t stop checking the horizon.
Don’t stop watching for the prodigal.
Don’t stop watching for the SON.