When a Father Grieves
And Jesus said, “A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ So he divided his wealth between them. And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living.”
Father’s Day is set aside each year to celebrate the dads in our lives. But for many, this is a hard day. Some men are not able to have children. For others, this is the day they grieve the loss of a child. And for many, this day will pass with the knowledge that they will not hear from their son. In this context, the story of the prodigal son is an ancient one that still pulls on the souls of fathers everywhere.
The prodigal was a young man who became restless and decided to leave home for the big city. He took his inheritance, spent it all on loose living, and was reduced to feeding pigs in order to survive. As he starved in the pig pen, he came to his senses and realized that his father’s servants ate better than he did. He swallowed his pride and returned home.
In the Bible account, the first thing the prodigal son saw when he arrived home in humiliation was the sight of his father running down the road to meet him with joy. There they embraced, both the fears of the son and the heartache of the father dispelled in a moment of sweet reconciliation.
The son suffered much for his choice to walk away and squander his inheritance, and it was his desperation that drove him home. It must have been a long walk home that day. But the things that he never saw would have helped him to understand what it meant to be loved without condition. Had he known, he would have run all the way home.
He never saw the agony of an old man broken. He never saw the lines in his father’s face from the many nights without sleep. He never saw how his father struggled to hold on to his integrity when the questions drowned him in the night.
He never saw the tears or the drooped shoulders from carrying a sorrow too great. He never saw the way his father fought to hold up his head around others, as if to dare the shame to approach him.
If he could have seen his father’s heart, he would have known how many times he was remembered, prayed over, grieved, forgiven, remembered, prayed over, and grieved again. If he could have only seen the pain he inflicted by disrespecting and discarding his family’s love so easily, he would have never left.
If only he could have seen how much precious time he had lost, how much happiness he had squandered on sin.
A godly father’s heart is larger than our failures. If we realized how much the story of the prodigal reveals of our Father in heaven, who grieves silently and intensely, how much more we would understand God. It is this Father who weeps for us, who watches the road for our return, and who runs to meet us with great joy when we make that long walk home.
“’This son of mine was dead and has come to life again;
he was lost and has been found.’”