You are Welcomed Back
I am looking out the picture window of our home, waiting for my father to come and pick up my siblings and me for our weekend visitation time. We would often wait for hours, only to learn that he wasn’t going to show up—again. He was often angry with my mother, or one of us, and had decided that he had something better to do. Over time, this repeated childhood experience produced self-talk that said I was not worthy of my father’s love.
This thought process carried over into my spiritual life. Many times, when I stumbled or struggled with some sinful behavior, I would think, I’m not worthy. God can’t possibly forgive me for this. He’s not going to show up.
And then I would see the truth of my Heavenly Father’s attitude toward me in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11–32. It is a familiar story for many of us: the younger of two sons tells his father he wants his share of the inheritance. Once he receives the money, he leaves home. For a while, the younger son has a great time. However, he soon finds himself destitute. The money is gone, and he is trying to survive in the middle of a famine in a distant land. He works a menial job feeding pigs and is so hungry that he longs to eat their food. Then he comes to his senses—it’s time to go back home. The younger son rehearses his speech, which includes: “I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants” (Luke 15:19).
When the younger son is still a long way off, the father catches sight of him—and takes off running down the road to welcome his son back home. In Middle Eastern culture, running was a shameful thing, yet the father is willing to risk humiliation to greet his long-lost son.
What a beautiful picture of how God welcomes us back when we come to our senses and return to Him. He doesn’t require us to clean up and do penance before we return. God doesn’t keep us at arm’s length, and He doesn’t make us earn our place at His table. He doesn’t sit and wait for us to come to Him. He runs towards us and throws His arms wide in welcome. When we come home, God publicly celebrates that we have returned! He prepares a banquet and throws a party. There was an empty spot at His table and now it is filled. We are back home where we belong.
It took me many years to understand and believe in the depth of God’s love for me as His child. It was a shock to realize that He was running toward me with arms open wide, welcoming me. I have learned that my Heavenly Father always shows up. And when I look into His face, I see nothing but love.