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11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. 17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. 25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”

When all my daughters reached the age of 12, I took them to dinner. A date with my daughters at the start of the big change in their lives. During this dinner, I would talk with them about whatever topic came up. At some point in the conversation, however, I would focus in on my daughter, taking in their outward beauty that reflected their inward beauty, and tell them the most important thing for that evening, from me to them: “I love you no matter what.” I told them that there would be nothing they could do to change the love in my heart for them. They were my daughters, and I loved them.

In this story, we have no idea what the father told his sons when they were young. We don’t know what words were spoken to the boys to help them understand the bond the father had and wanted with them. But, I think in the story, we get a sense of what those words might have been.

This meandering son spoke to his father as though he were dead when he asked for his inheritance. His next act was to leave for a far country, where he partied like there was no tomorrow. Like Solomon, he tasted and experienced all the earthly pleasures he could find, until one day he opened his money purse and found it empty. Everything his dad had worked for, and given to him without complaint or sharp words, was gone. Spent. Wasted.

His story ends with him returning home, hoping to be a day-laborer for his dad, finding instead his dad loved him no matter what. He returned to relationship and covenant with his father, despite the choices he made. Dad calls for the fattened calf to be prepared as a meal, and the real party begins.

When the older brother returns from his work in the fields, he finds a party in full swing with the guests, and his brother, enjoying some prime beef. Having never received even a young goat to eat with his friends, he blows up at his father, with all the guests in full hearing. The father begins again to rebuild a gulf between them out of the sincere love he has for both sons, who equally failed their father in different ways. I have a sense that this father whispered to his sons over the years his deep love for them, never to change.

Likewise, God has whispered his love for us in a way that is unassailable: his son, the singular most valuable item in his eyes, was given up to slaughter so that we might be called his sons and daughters, too. Complete, total, unabashed and unfettered love for us is what God speaks to us. It’s an interesting thing we humans do, when we’re in the middle of a struggle. We look up and ask why God doesn’t care a whit for our circumstances and pain. What would be better in those times, rather than looking up and asking the question, would be to sit still, and recall all of the things God has done for us, and remember he’s never left our sides during our pain and struggles. Perhaps today is a good time, wherever you are, to do just that. [/vc_column_text][us_separator height=”25px” size=”custom”][vc_column_text]

By Rich Obrecht  

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