I saw a mother run toward her child in the mall. The boy was middle-school aged. He was with a friend. They had shopping bags in their hands. And when the mother saw the boys she ran toward them. And what she did next gave me pause.
She screamed at them. There in the mall. I understand. She was concerned. Apparently she had become separated from the boys–or the boys had wandered off without telling her, or they didn’t meet up with her as they had planned. I tried not to eavesdrop on what she was saying, but it was impossible to ignore. She was shouting at her son at full voice.
“How could you do this to me!? You are in big trouble. Don’t ever do that again. I have been so worried. Why did you do that?! I am so upset with you.”
And the boy stood there. Listening. Eyes down. Mumbling. And his friend looked like he wanted to just turn into the nearest store and slink away.
I get it. The mom was concerned that the boy was lost. She was worried for her son’s safety, perhaps justifiably so.
But I didn’t get the impression that the boy thought his mother was glad to see him. It sounded like the mother was more worked up about her own anguish rather than having any real gladness in finding the boy. I wondered if the next time the boy was “lost” from his mother’s presence whether he’d really want to be “found” by her.
How glad I am that the Father doesn’t respond to his lost children that way. Jesus tells a parable that helps me see that. It’s well-known. The parable of the prodigal son–which really is about a Father who finds a son that was lost. You may recall.
While the son is still a long way off, the father sees him. The father has been on the look out. The father knows what the son has done. The father knows the son has purposefully left. Yet the father is looking, waiting, watching. And the father sees the son. And the father runs to the son. And the father kisses the son. And the father hugs the son. And the father calls for a celebration. Because the father in the parable has real joy in finding the son of his who was lost. (You can–and should–read the whole parable. It’s found in Luke 15.)
The father in the parable has more joy over finding the lost son than anguish and sorrow over the absence of the son while he was lost. The delight overpowers the anguish.
And the Father above has real joy in embracing every child that has been lost and becomes found in Jesus. He is looking for us, for you. He is running after us, after you. He embraces and welcomes us with love. He rejoices over finding us.
If my image of God is like the mother in the mall, I may find myself keeping my distance when I find I have strayed. If my image of God is like the mother in the mall, if I don’t really know this God I will not likely want to be found by him.
But if my thought of God is shaped by the parable Jesus tells . . .
Well, let’s just say that being embraced in love that way is what it feels like to “come home.”