Enjoying the contented feeling permeating the barnyard, I walked to the house. Breakfast is always a happy time for our menagere. I whistled for the dogs, who just moments before had been playing in the snow just a few feet away.
When they didn't immediately appear at my side, I looked up to see their tails disappear over the hill.
I was frantic. I criss-crossed our back roads, calling their names, whistling. It was February, cold, and they had a terrible track record of getting lost.
After three days of anxiety and sadness, we received a phone call. Someone had found our dogs.
When I drove up to the house, my heart was pounding. I truly had begun to believe that we weren't going to see our dogs again. In my heart, I had begun to mourn their loss.
When I saw them, I fell to my knees, hugging them, crying. Our dogs are part of our family, they fill a space in my heart. In the moment we were reunited, the only emotion I felt was joy.
A few weeks ago I was reading the story of the prodigal son. (Luke 15:11-32) For the first time ever, this jumped out at me: "...while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out and embraced his son and kissed him." The son started to apologize, "... but his father wasn't listening. He was calling to the servants, 'Quick! Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer...We're going to feast! We're going to celebrate!' " (excerpts from Luke 15:20-24 MSG)
I thought of the many times that I had gone my own way and refused God's friendship and guidance. In my mind's eye, my return was marked by God's disapproval, hands on his hips, watching me slink up the road, begging for him to take me back. In my mind, my return was met with 'Well, it's about time!'.
I began to think about the picture of the father, watching the road, longing for his son to return. How, when he saw his son, he RAN out to meet him.
When our hearts finally turn back to God, truly embracing him, when we are truly free from the need to go our own way, God rushes to meet us. We do not complete the long walk home by ourselves. We do not slink up the driveway. When our hearts are thrown over the fence, 100% repentant, he runs to meet us. Our Father completes the long walk with us, beaming as he holds our hand, his arm around our shoulders. He calls for us to be served, cared for, provided for, cleaned up. Before we even arrive home, he is showering us with grace: blessings, comfort, forgiveness and acceptance. By the time we complete our journey home, we are clean - a treasured, adored child.
happy to have our dogs home
Our journey back to God is joyful - there is no condemnation. The conviction we felt while we were in rebellion is replaced with peace; in our choice to turn back to God, the forgiveness we asked for is granted.
He simply rejoices.
There is no 'walk of shame', no trial, no recounting of failure or disappointment. That first honest step of repentance is met with grace: mercy, forgiveness, joy and the freedom to join him. Our next steps home are simply joyful declarations of love.
God has a heart for the strong-willed individual who chooses Him. Luke 15:7 says "...there's more joy in heaven over one sinner's rescued life than over ninety-nine 'good' people in no need of rescue."
Have you ever considered that you bring God JOY when you choose him?
"We want to live well, but our foremost efforts should be to help others live well."
(1 Corinthians 10:24b MSG)