Matt 18: 12-14 “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go in search for the one which went astray? And if he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine which never went astray.”
Our Father would gladly leave 99 to find me, to find you. How is that even possible? How is anyone capable of love like that? I can’t even begin to comprehend an unyielding, unrelenting love like our Father in heaven has for us!
So this past week I saw a movie that was a truly powerful experience on a number of levels. It was out for one night, called The Heart of Man. It’s described like this; “A cinematic retelling of the parable of the prodigal son, juxtaposed with interviews of real people struggling with distractions from their faith and the shame that follows addiction; includes a round-table discussion moderated by Pastor Chad Veach.” Addiction was the centerpiece of the story, and of the interviews woven throughout yet what struck me is how we have a Father in Heaven that loves us like no-other. A Father that pursues us. It was an unbelievable experience to be in such a public and central theater watching a movie talking about addiction and faith, yet there I was with my wife hand in hand. That in itself is a miracle, proof of God’s love. A public declaration if you will, love and redemption. Light where there was so much darkness.
The movie was so much more than addiction. What struck me was how our own experiences growing up with our own fathers can also shape our view of who God is. So is God an over-bearing Father who enjoys punishing us? Or is He one who shows up on occasion but generally is nowhere to be found when bad things happen? Or is He one that loves you unconditionally and would do anything for you? I suppose the answer lies with each of us, and it depends on us. My own father was a combination of many of the above, a complex and broken man. He had a stringent upbringing and was passed on what Bill calls a *broken baton*. He dominated our home with a strong presence that could either ignite laughter or spread fear like a plague. His schedule kept him traveling much of every month so when he was home it was very much about him. Then he retired and a softening took place. The father I was given on earth was one with a heart that was massive, but he never really got a chance to break down the barriers that the world, and he, put into place in his life. He did the best he could. It makes me sad to know that his brokenness kept him from from living life to the full, but I’m so grateful to of had him. Imperfect and all, I love that man and miss him dearly. It was another of God’s blessings that the last time I saw him in this world was one steeped in love and free from anything other than us, rich in the Holy Spirit. Only God.
So back to the movie, the role of the Father, of God, was cast beautifully and helped me view my creator as someone who loved me even when I stray. Someone that looks at me with a love so deep it both pains Him and amuses Him when I do something contrary to His will for me. I was reminded of that look, it’s one I hope I have when I deal with my own kids (though admittedly on a different scale) when they do something against what my wife and I ask of them. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a look of love so free from judgement or from agenda. A look that screams, I love you and I don’t care what you’ve done. A look that welcomes me back into relationship with someone that knows me and craves me. Seeks me regardless of the distance, and can find me despite the barriers I’ve formed.
It’s a look that initially made me sad, knowing I’ve never experienced that type of love but I realize it’s a look only a loving Heavenly Father can share with us, and a look, a love that only He is capable of. Despite my best intentions, despite the boundless love I have for my daughters, I will never have a love so perfect that my anger or frustration won’t cloud the love I have for them. In fact I have to confess that it happened this morning with my youngest daughter. I wish I could access more love this morning, she deserves it even in her willfulness. As I sit here I wish I could have it to do all over again, but my love for them will never be perfect in the way He loves us. I have to confess it to God, and ask that He continue to remove my character defects. Today, and daily. I’ll almost always get it wrong, but it’s not going to keep me from trying every day. My love is big, but His is bigger, infinitely bigger. And regardless of who we are, who we’ve been or what we’ve done we are loved. We don’t have to prove anything to be in relationship, or to be loved by God. He loves us if we acknowledge it or not. He loves us if we accept it or not. He loves us if we feel it or not. He loves us.
“I am obliged to believe in an abyss of love which is deeper than the abyss of death: I dare not lose faith in that love.” F.D. Maurice