The air conditioner kicked on as I wound the vacuum cord back into place, but the house was otherwise ominously quiet.
Curious, I poked my head around the door frame into one of the boy’s rooms. No one there. I checked across the hall in the other bedroom. No five year old in there either.
I called his name, walking faster from room to room, and my tone changed from curious to irritated.
I looked in the closets and under the beds. I checked behind chairs and under the couch. My irritation morphed into something altogether different.
My heart beat in my ears as I hurried through the back door. The yard slept, no boy swinging or digging. My skin crawled and I ran to the front yard but found it empty. No big wheel screeching on the driveway. I swung my head right looking down the street, then left, then right again.
Four houses down, a small form swinging his arms marched in the gutter. I recognized that little body and took off after him.
Breathless, I ask him, “What are you doing? Where are you going?”
His face set, he continued stomping ahead. “I’m running away.”
I caught up and wrapped my arms around him. “Why? What’s wrong?”
“Let me go. I’m running away.”
This scenario repeated three more times. To this day, I have no idea why our little guy took off, and when I ask him, he doesn’t remember any of it. Did he feel neglected while I vacuumed? Had I told him to pick up the mess in his room? Was he jealous of his brothers?
Remember the parable of the prodigal son? Why did he leave home? Maybe he didn’t want to be under his father’s authority or he felt his father was holding him back from life. Maybe he had no other reason than boredom, but he asked for his inheritance, in effect saying, “I wish you were dead. Give me my share, I’m outta here.”
Despite the spear his son had thrust in his chest, we know from the text that his father loved his son, because he handed over the inheritance and watched for his return.
He knew his son would not find satisfaction and that going his own way would be disastrous. He feared his boy would not live through his wild fling.
When the father saw a familiar gait and shape on the horizon, he disregarded propriety, hiked up his long robes and ran to bear-hug his returning son.
Luke 15:20 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.
Like the prodigal or my son, I get my back up when God tells me to do something I don’t want to do. I make excuses and do enough to “make him happy,” but I’m running away on the inside. I guess I’m like the older brother who felt like his father was holding back good.
Other times I recite a list of people that need my heavenly father’s tending but avoid talking to him, because I feel inadequate and like a sorry excuse for a Christian. I unconsciously think he must have the same opinion of me.
Bit by bit, my detours around him wear me down with anxiety until I realize what I’m doing. I come to my senses, like the prodigal son, and go home. I return to what drew me to Jesus in the first place—his love.
When I return and allow him to take the lead, I exhale with such sweet release and relief I wonder how I could have wandered off in the first place. A peace like no other cloaks me, and I know I’m home.
I made mistakes in parenting. I erred in judgement. I was inconsistent. I lost patience. I let behaviors slide that needed attention. I neglected.
Our heavenly father, however, doesn’t make these mistakes. He knows us with understanding. His wisdom informs his parenting. He sees and has authority over the future. He knows what we cannot.
Jesus is also gentle and humble. He will not expect more from us than we can do. He instructs us as we go and does not expect us to read his mind. He directs as he knows is best for us.
Are you tired?
Do you insist on your way or the highway?
Stop running and come to your senses.
Throw down your chin-in-the-air independence.
Let go of feelings of inferiority.
Take his yoke and place it on your shoulders.
There is only one place where you receive lasting peace and belonging. Go home where perfect love awaits.
Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.