By Rick Hamlin
The Prodigal Father
I was reading something the other day that said when you pray, keep in mind how glad God is to hear from you. “It’s the way you feel when you’re a parent and you get a call or a text or an email from your kids,” the writer said. I know what that’s like, I thought.
A couple of years back when our older son, William, came home from college for summer vacation he waltzed in the house at eight o’clock. He kissed his parents, hugged his little brother, put his bags in his bedroom and sat down to the delicious dinner his mother had cooked for him. Must have been garlic chicken, his favorite. I said grace— “Thank you, God, for William’s safe arrival home”—ready to kick up my heels in celebration. Hosannas and Hallelujahs would not have been out of place.
At dinner we talked about school, his friends, the grade he hoped to get in his tough econ course, the wild game of baseball he’d played with buddies. He acknowledged some anxiety about his summer job. That he got up from the table, checked a few messages on his cellphone, put on his jacket and headed for the door. “Bye,” he said. “I’m going to see some buddies.”
“Bye,” we said. The door closed and I looked at my watch. It was nine o’clock. He’d been home for exactly one hour.
When I recounted this story to a friend at the office, she asked me, “Weren’t you a little disappointed that he didn’t linger longer?”
My face wreathed in smiled, I shook my head. “No, no, no, you don’t understand. He was home for one hour! We got to see him and talk to him for one solid hour!”
If I feel that way about my son, I have to think my heavenly parent is about as happy with a visit from me, even if I just want to complain. As has often been pointed out, the parable of the Prodigal Son could easily be called the parable of the Prodigal Father. Because the word prodigal means profuse and lavish, abundant and excessive, and that’s just what the Father’s love is like.
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