I was just five years old when I found my life verse. It was an accident, really. I opened up my Bible one evening to read a Bible verse to my family:
“Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
“Mama! This is Chuckie’s verse!” I exclaimed, thinking only of my cousin in that very moment. He and I were two peas in a pod; we were peas and carrots, as Forrest Gump would say. Born just a month apart, we shared everything from birthday parties to the same kindergarten teacher. My little cousin had endured more than the average five year old. Due to his parents’ divorce, he was shuffled back and forth between a working mom, a working dad, and my house, where we would spend most of our time playing together while having cloud-watching picnics and climbing trees. These verses were for him. He had a rough life, but if he came to Jesus, then Jesus would give him rest. This verse has been special to me ever since, and I have remembered it time and time again as I endured my own heavy burdens.
The Bible is speckled with “come to Jesus” verses, and many songs have been written with the same theme. Every single Sunday for many years, my little Baptist church would stand and sing:
Just as I am without one plea
But that Thou blood was shed for me
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee
O Lamb of God, I come! I come!
Many Sundays I would watch people walk down one of the aisles to the pastor standing at the front, as they would come to Jesus, sometimes for the first time, and sometimes for the first time in a long time. Each knowing that it was no longer their own strength that brought them home, but it was the welcome of a God who loved them despite their wanderings.
In the parable of the Prodigal Son, we read about both sons “coming” home. The first comes home after a season of destruction and poor decisions. He comes home after hitting rock bottom. The second comes home after a long and tiring day of working in the fields. He comes home after his tasks for the day are complete.
As they both come home seeking rest – of the spirit for one son and of the body for the other – neither of them make it into the house alone.
The first son comes home full of shame and guilt. He is dirty, he is spent, he is ashamed, he is alone. He comes home clothed in humility, seeking the forgiveness of his father. He doesn’t make it very far before his father
He doesn’t just come. He runs.
He sees his wandering son’s return, and he runs to him to embrace him and rejoice in his coming home.
The second son comes home full of aches and exhaustion. He is marked with dirt, his bones need rest, his self-sufficiency has made him arrogant, his pride has fed into anger. He also is alone. He comes home with the air of a man who just worked hard for his father. He doesn’t make it very far before he stops.
He hears music. He smells delicious food. There is a celebration going on inside and it has nothing to do with him. He stands there, flabbergasted and angry when he hears the celebration is in honor of his brother. But he doesn’t stand there long before his father
I once was in the shoes of the first son. Maybe you have been, too. Rock bottom… filing for bankruptcy, signing divorce papers, walking into the soup kitchen or food pantry, staring at the negative sign on the bank statement, looking at a positive on the results of a test… the depths of despair.
And with that despair, I found myself returning to the Father. I found myself coming home. But I didn’t have to go all the way, because my Father was already waiting for me. His welcome was already waiting as my own strength was waning.
I have also been in the shoes of the second son. Maybe you’ve found yourself with those same feelings, as well. Frustrated, because you have just given every last penny you had to the Lord, but you see your friend’s family being blessed abundantly in their finances. Annoyed, because you have served Sunday after Sunday in the nursery with no recognition and there is a new lady at church who is already on the worship team, with her face ten times bigger than life on the screen above everyone’s head. Angry, because you have worked hard for the Lord and you are exhausted and worn and weary, but you feel completely lost and forgotten.
And in that frustration, annoyance, or anger, I have found myself coming home. Burdened with pride, but finding I didn’t have to go all the way, because my Father was already waiting for me then, too. His welcome was already waiting.
You see, the Father knows us. He knows the most detailed and intimate parts of our thoughts. He knew exactly what would happen before we would come to Him with all of our brokenness, so He could give us rest.
And He knew exactly how hard we would work to serve Him and see His Kingdom come. And He knows that we will be tired, and we will be worn, and we will need rest.
So, He comes to us.
Ready to offer our burdened spirits rest.
Ready to give our weary bodies rest.
He comes regardless of our effort.
Regardless of our goodness.
Regardless of the stench of our sin.
But, only after we’ve realized that we want to come to Him.
He waits until we are ready to come home,
and then He shows us that He came a long time ago.
So, wherever you find yourself, whether you are just now hitting the depths of despair, or whether you are in the middle of a season of hard work… know that whenever you are ready to come to the Father, He will know, and He will already be waiting for you.
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