Read His Words Before Ours!
“Now, just ease your left foot off the clutch and slowly push your right foot against the accelerator. Easy, easy…” my dad cautioned. The car bucked forward and my teeth snapped together across my tongue as the engine died…again. A metallic taste filled my mouth and I blinked back a couple of tears. An impatient-sounding car horn blared behind us and I glanced at my dad.
He smiled. “It’s okay, they’ll wait. Try again.”
When you are sixteen and learning to drive, stoplights seem to last for an eternity. (Remember sixteen? Everything seems to last for an eternity at that age.) Eternity seems even longer when you are forced to stop while traveling uphill and proceed to kill the manual transmission over…and over…and over again.
I gritted my teeth and put the car back in first. I took a breath, checked to make sure my feet were in the correct position and turned the key. The engine hummed to life. The light turned green and I slowly raised my left foot while lowering my right. The heavy white car jolted forward and I grimaced, but the transmission didn’t falter and we sailed through the intersection.
My dad didn’t have to be patient or kind as I struggled to learn an uphill start in the old white Volvo. He had given me clear instructions numerous times. He had shown me how to slowly trade the clutch for the gas with his own feet. While teaching me to drive, he had risked his very life several times and spent countless hours riding shotgun with me as I drove us down every back road we could find.
He could have pointed out that I was just not getting the hang of the manual transmission… and likely never would.
He could have laughed at my mistake.
He could have humiliated me by angrily ordering me out of the car and taking my place behind the wheel.
But he didn’t.
We can all remember instances when we have messed up. We may have received pointed feedback or correction. We may have been on the receiving end of cutting words or actions. No one responds well to harsh criticism…even when it is deserved. My father could have responded in any number of negative ways.
Instead, he sat calmly beside me, waiting for me to realize what I was getting wrong and how to get it right.
Jesus once spoke of another patient father. A father with two sons.
One son was eager to shed the shackles of responsibility and throw caution to the wind.
The other was determined to follow the letter of the law and prove his loyalty through actions.
Neither was right.
The first son received his inheritance early. Upon receiving the money, he moved far away. He lived it up, partying and living recklessly. He spent money on frivolities and luxuries, never once giving thought to savings or even his own survival. Suddenly and not-so-suddenly, the son found himself completely destitute and scrounging for food among the filthiest livestock.
Desperate, he returned to his father, expecting to be treated as a servant.
The other son stayed behind, determined to earn his father’s love. He worked. He helped his father with the family land. He never squandered a dime of his portion of the inheritance. While his actions seem pure, his heart posture was lacking.
The father could have ignored the first son’s pleas.
He could have allowed his son a place among the servants while withholding his affection.
He could have responded to either son with indignation, anger or frustration.
He could have berated the second son for his pride, calling into question his motives.
But he didn’t.
Instead, he ran to his long-lost son. He embraced him joyfully and called for all to join in a huge celebration to welcome his son home. He was sincere in his jubilance that his long-lost son had returned!
Instead, he gently and lovingly corrected the son who remained behind. With a soft response, he steered his proud son toward humility.
In each picture, we see an incredible portrayal of God’s Father-love for His children. We have all sinned.
Not one of us is perfect.
We all mess up, but when we return to Him and ask forgiveness,
He joyously gives it! He doesn’t withhold His affections or blessings from us because of our sin. No!
He welcomes us with open arms.
Rejoicing, He calls us new.
Clean. Beautiful. Forgiven.
Through Jesus’s sacrifice, the filth that once clung to our robes is gone and we are free to dance and twirl in His presence.
We may not all share the memory of a patient father in the earthly realm, but in the parable of the prodigal son Jesus depicts the Father-heart of God for us.
We see that His heart is welcoming, giving, rejoicing and forgiving.
He does not wait with judging eyes and furrowed brow.
He waits for us with joy, love, compassion and forgiveness.
We have only to return to Him.
The patient Father is waiting for us, ready to sweep us off our feet and celebrate our return with wild abandon.
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