He Loves Me!
This devotional is a series of excerpts from Wayne Jacobsen's life changing book, He Loves Me! Download a PDF of this book by clicking the link below.
Day 11: What the Father Wanted Most
Isn't it amazing how at each point in the story this father acts completely the opposite of how we would expect a loving father to act? He should never have given him an early inheritance, especially not to such an irresponsible son. He shouldn't have stood by while his son wasted away. And certainly he shouldn't have welcomed him home so extravagantly without making him pay for his stupidity. His actions make no sense at all, unless he wanted something more for his son than mere responsible behavior.
Though it may appear that what the son wanted drove this story, a closer look shows just otherwise. What the Father wanted is the key here, and he wanted it so desperately he would spare nothing to have it. What do you think that was? Was it to be with his sons or to have them labor in his fields? No, the story started there and he could easily have kept the younger one there by refusing his request and giving him no opportunity to make such a wreak of his life. That wasn't enough for this father. He wanted something more.
What he didn't have was a loving relationship with either of his sons. The younger son only saw him as a conduit to his own pleasures; the elder as a taskmaster to serve in the fields. They were both in the house, but neither was at home in his love. Could that be why the father let the younger son go? Rather than force him to stay and deepen his hostility, he let him go to run to the end of his own self-sufficiency and find out who his father really was.
For it is at that moment when he looks with longing at the food given to the pigs that he realizes his father is a much kinder man than the farmer he's working for now. It's then that he comes to his senses and decides to go home. But he still has no idea what kind of father he's about to meet. Afraid of his anger, embarrassed by the mess he made of his life, he prepared a speech, confessing his unworthiness to be considered a son.
Even then he had no idea how loved he was, and that nothing he had done in the intervening years had compromised that love. This father wanted an intimate friendship with both of his children. He wanted them to know how deeply they were loved and to experience their love in return. He didn't want his sons' obedience, but their hearts. Knowing it would only come when the son truly understood who his father really was, he risked it all by letting the son have what he wanted. Only by coming to the end of himself, would he come to recognize what had been important to the father all along.
As a parent of adult children, I understand that easily. There's nothing I prize more with my children than those moments when we share the honesty and intimacy of friendship. When they know I love them, and they respond the same way to me, there's nothing better.
That's the point of Jesus' story. The father was not manipulating the son by anything he did. He was only loving the son at the deepest possible level. That love explains why the father let him go in the first place and why he rushed so hard to embrace him. He knew his son's sin had been punishment enough. He ran because he didn't want his son to hurt one second longer than was absolutely necessary. His pain had brought him home. Nothing else mattered.
God feels the same way about you. He's not interested in your service or sacrifice. He only wants you to know how much you are loved, hoping that you will choose to love him in return. Understand that and everything else about your life will fall into place; miss that and nothing else will make any difference.