God’s “no pressure” approach
By Teresa A. LeNeave
Because I know what hurt feel like, I don't want you to hurt.
That was the stance of the father whose son left home, took his part of the family inheritance and spent it on parties and women. Perhaps the father had made some mistakes in his own life and those memories were revived by the riotous living of his younger son. Perhaps his hurting heart had never healed; his continual prayer may be the reason he was "watching" for his son's return.
Was it providence, or habit, that he was on the porch looking down the road when his son was seen in the distance? He could have been in the field working with his oldest son. He could have been in the house in his comfy recliner. He could have been enjoying a cup of tea with his wife, but he wasn't. The father was outside, looking, watching and maybe whispering a prayer when he saw the figure of a young man walking toward the house.
Without a moment hesitation, (quickly, the Bible says), he ordered the servants to bring a robe, a ring and a pair of shoes. With those items he would greet his child.
…And, he began to run down the road toward his son. Because he was traveling, I’m sure the son had on had shoes and some kind of robe, so it wasn't a need for clothing that the father was fulfilling when he ordered the servants to bring a robe, a ring and a pair of shoes.
The need, it is apparent, was the restoration of his family. Restoration of his family was all that mattered to the aged man as he ran toward his son. As they neared one another, he could see his son had aged and was a little ragged from wear and tear of the world.
His first thought was not the son's physical condition or the fact that he had hurt the family when he left. Instead, it was, "My son was dead, but now he's alive."
The point I want to make is that the son had hurt the father, badly. When he took half of all his possession, the father may have been a little strapped for cash. Because of the son’s rejection, the father could have held a grudge and said, "He needs to come home and apologize, then I'll accept him back into the family. He's going to make some restitution before he comes back and acts like nothing ever happened."
But, that's not what happened. Before his son was half-way up the drive, the father ran to him bringing all the items that symbolized forgiveness and love.
The undeserving son was given a robe: a covering that told the son, "I've forgiven you"; a ring, which said, "As my son, I'm giving authority back to you; and a pair of shoes which lets the son know "all the father had was at his disposal again". By the father’s actions, the son knew he was accepted back into the family. The son, who was prepared to grovel, repent and beg for a job as a hired hand, was totally unprepared for the loving and forgiving reception he received.
The father had a reason for his drastic actions. No son of his would ever have reason to doubt his love. He would not allow his son to experience embarrassment, fear and shame in front of the neighbors, the church folks, or the servants. As a forgiven person he would experience all the joys and pleasure of being a son. Nothing would be withheld.
That's just the way God is. He welcomes us back before we even reach the altar. His love reaches even deeper than this father in the story. By the time we decide to go back home, God is already covering us with love and his big arms wrap us in warmth and forgiveness. Like the father in the story, God doesn't even want to hear excuses that explain our actions. He just forgives.
May we be like the father when we are hurt. Just like you, the father probably thought he couldn't stand the pain when his son left. Please note, when the father ran to meet the son he wasn't looking for an apology. He was looking for his son. The son was all that mattered at the moment. Everything else works out when unconditional love and forgiveness is given by the one who was hurt.
Love has a language: "Because I know what hurt feels like, I don't want you to hurt".
May God's grace and mercy cover, like a robe, all of you who are hurting today.