There are many well-known stories from the Bible. There are stories of love and bravery. There are stories of pain and regret. There are stories of hope and redemption. The prodigal son contains all of these. I am going to give you my version of the story, just in case you haven’t heard it.
Once there was a father and he had two sons. He loved both children very much. One son asked the father if he could have his inheritance before the father died. He wanted all the father could give him (really he wanted more, but that is for another day) and he wanted it now. The father, being full of love for his son, gave it to him. The son packed up his things and headed off to spend his fortune and live the way he had always dreamed.
As time passed, his money slowly disappeared. I imagine he spent it on good food and good whiskey. I see him buying rounds of drinks in hopes of friendship. I see him gambling money to show how clever and smart he was, only to lose it all.
So here he is no money, no friends, and no hope. He knows he can’t go home. He has made a fool of himself. He had not only lost his pride and money, but he must have believed he had lost the love, respect, and care of his father. He decided to get a job. Unfortunately, the only job he can find is to clean and care for the dirtiest of animals. One night, while feeding a pig, he has enough. He remembers that his father treats his workers better than he is being treated. He decides to go home and ask his father if he could be his worker. He knows he has thrown away everything… he knows he doesn’t deserve to be his son… but if he could just be a worker on his father’s land, he will at least be fed.
I can imagine that walk home. He must have been trembling with fear. He must have rehearsed over and over again his speech. He would admit his wrong doing. He would admit his crimes. He would admit his selfish pride. He would ask to live not in the home, but out among the workers.
This is my favorite part of the story. The father, seeing his son from far off, runs to him. No big deal, right? Wrong. During this time and in this country, men did not run. In order to run, one had to lift his tunic. Showing your legs would bring great shame to the man, but in order to run, one had to do it. Imagine running in a long evening gown. Not happening, right? You must hike that baby up… and the higher you hike the dress, the faster you run.
Nothing mattered to the father… not the shame of him running, not the regret of giving his son so much of his fortune, not all the time that had past. Nothing mattered, but the son coming home.
So I bet this is when you think I am going to tell you some big sin of mine that my dad has forgiven?There are plenty of sins, but that is not why I love this story.
Or that my dad has always run after me with perfect love?
He loves me, but he is not perfect.
Or how I have never made my daddy proud, but he loves me anyway?
No, none of these.
I love this story because I don’t know a man who lives his life understanding this story better than my father. My dad knows he is loved by a big God. My dad knows that he hasn’t lived a perfect life. He knows his mistakes. He has regrets. That doesn’t change the unfaltering grace and love of his God. My father lives on the Father’s farm not as a son that deserves everything that is coming to him, but as a son that can’t believe the abundance. My dad has accepted and received God’s unfailing love and grace. Because of that, my father gives great love and grace, and he gives it in abundance. I am not sure I know a more loving and forgiving man than my father. He gives to those that have nothing to give in return. He sees the forgotten. He loves the unlovable.
Today is my daddy’s birthday. All he wanted for his birthday is for me to tell him I love him. So, dad, I love you. I love that you love my family. I love that your laugh can fill up a room. I love that you can make a story of a chicken crossing the road the best damn story I have ever heard. I love that you tell me I am the apple of your eye every time I call you. But more than all that, I love that you know the love of the Father. I pray I can be as graceful and loving to the world as you have been.
Happy Birthday, dad. I love you. I am thankful for your love and the love of our big God.