“When the prodigal son limped home from his lengthy binge of waste and wandering, boozing and womanizing, his motives were mixed at best. He said to himself, ‘How many of my father’s paid servants have more food than they want, and here I am dying of hunger! I will leave this place and go to my father.’
The ragamuffin’s stomach was not churning with compunction because he had broken his father’s heart. He stumbled home simply to survive.
For me, the most touching verse in the entire Bible is the father’s response: ‘While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him tenderly.’
I am moved that the father didn’t cross-examine the boy, bully him, lecture him on ingratitude, or insist on any high motivation. He was so overjoyed at the sight of his son that he ignored all canons of prudence and parental discretion and simply welcomed him home. The father took him back just as he was.
What a word of encouragement, consolation, and comfort! We don’t have to sift our hearts and analyze our intentions before returning home. Abba just wants us to show up.
We don’t have to tarry at the tavern until purity of heart arrives. We don’t have to be shredded with sorrow or crushed with contrition. We don’t have to be perfect or even very good before God will accept us. We don’t have to wallow in guilt, shame, and self-condemnation.
Even if we still nurse a secret nostalgia for the far country, Abba falls on our neck and kisses us.”
–Brennan Manning (The Ragamuffin Gospel)