Have you heard the story of the prodigal son?
It’s in Luke 15:11-32.
Read it – then read verse 20 again.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”
Why did he do that?
Let me tell you a story that might help you understand.
One day I got home before my son did, and for the first time in a long time, I would be able to make him an after school snack, and just sit with him while he ate and talked about his day.
I stood at the window, waiting, watching, remembering.
This was my son, the one I’d fed from a bottle.
The one I’d changed thousands of diapers on.
The one I’d burped and who’d burped on me.
The one whose first steps I saw.
The one I’d played with and loved and taught to ride a bike.
The one whose skinned knees I cleaned and bandaged.
He was the one I’d seen grow as a cub scout, as a young soccer player, soon to be a football player, and later on, an Eagle Scout.
And while looking out the window, waiting for him, I slowly began to understand what verse 20 means.
I stood there – yearning for a chance to share some time with him, and suddenly I understood why the father of the prodigal son “saw him while he was a long way off”.
He couldn’t see him from “a long way off” unless he was actively watching for him.
And as I was standing there, it was as if thousands of years vanished in a kinship as two fathers stood, waiting for their sons. The sons they loved – we loved, and cherished, and wanted the best for. I could feel him, and almost see him standing there, next to me, the prodigal son’s father.
And I wondered…
How long had he been doing that?
How many days had he stood there, watching, waiting, hoping?
The father didn’t know all the son had done while he was gone – it didn’t matter. What mattered was that he had returned. That – that was worth celebrating!
He couldn’t slaughter the fatted calf unless he had one! That meant, in all that watching and waiting, he was expecting the best! He was expecting his son to come home.
He slaughtered the fatted calf to celebrate his son’s return.
I fixed an after school snack for my hungry boy.
And I understood, as I sat there, with my son, chatting about his day, why the prodigal son’s father stood there and watched for his.
He loved him. He cherished him. He wanted what was best for him. He wanted – he wanted to spend time with him.
And I realized that there are times when we go off on our merry way – wandering through the fields of pigs in our lives (verse 16) – that our Father is standing on His front porch, watching, waiting, pacing…
Waiting for us to come home so He can slaughter the fatted calf for a celebration….
…or sit at the kitchen table after school and share a baloney sandwich with us.