By: Elizabeth A. Mitchell
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)
Long before the son dragged his emaciated frame up the road, long before the father ever glimpsed a shred of the tattered garment as it hung limply on the withered, bony body, the father’s heart had already sifted through the mounds of costly disappointments and landed on the generous plane of forgiveness.
Far away countries with foolish choices had drained the very spittle from the son’s tongue. With bravado and contempt he had sauntered away from home, arrogance draped around his shoulder, disdain like a sickening ointment permeating his conceited steps. Greed fed his insatiable appetite; parasitic crowds sucked his inheritance bare till it resembled the dry cornhusks scattered around the filthy pig sty.
When he came to his senses, when he awoke to the realization that servants in his father’s house were satisfied and secure, he thought of a suitable speech to soothe his father’s anger, to defuse the punishment he rightfully deserved. But when he was yet far way, before any human eye would normally notice his approach, his father recognized him in spite of his disfigured appearance.
The father ran, feet flying fast, no obstacles of resentment or disappointment to overcome. Like an eagle he soared toward him unencumbered by the weight of unforgiveness. His arms were not burdened with bitterness, and by the time he reached his boy he had nothing to wrap around him but compassion and mercy.
Bring the robe, the ring and the sandals and cover his nakedness and shame. “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost and is found. And they began to celebrate.”
The father’s feet could twirl, and he could fling his arms high in celebration for bitterness was not strapped to his back. He had grieved his great loss with tears and had experienced what is available to all of us: “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” When we are broken, he comes close. With his presence as our guard, we are saved from the devastation of self-righteousness and its accompanying destructive roots.
That’s the kind of Heavenly Father we get to belong to and the incomparable gifts he is willing to provide. Especially when we find ourselves far, far away from home.
 Luke 15:24
 Psalm 34:18