“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” – Luke 15:20b
In recent years, we have witnessed this scene many times and in many venues: a reunion of a family which had sent one of its members off to war. In spite of the frequency of the deployments, I am thankful that we still celebrate the reunions. For the fathers, mothers, or children who have departed, the return home to their loved ones serves as the successful completion of their mission and the greatest reward for a job well done. For the fathers, mothers, or children who have waited it serves as the end of a period of time filled with worry, fear and anticipation. Everyone has made a tremendous sacrifice. The births of children, wedding anniversaries, family holidays, and milestone events have been missed. Having never experienced this separation, I can only offer my deepest appreciation to our military families who have made this sacrifice – most of all to those families who have made the even greater sacrifice of being unable to have the joy of the reunion.
From what I have heard from those families who have experienced this type of reunion, the greatest moment of all is that first big hug. It’s easy to see – a wave of emotion sparked by months of separation and worry. To simply hear or even see your loved one has returned home feels good but that full sensation of joy and relief seems only to come once you’ve wrapped your arms around that person and can physically feel they have returned.
Our emotions have ways of playing tricks on us that our senses will help to combat. That hug conveys so many emotions: love, relief, joy, anticipation, and safety to name a few. Having that sense of peace means so much to us. God knows this to be true when it comes to how He responds to us and our need for His love. Consider the Father that Jesus describes in the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15. His son has abandoned his family, squandered the half of the Father’s possessions that were bequeathed to him, made terrible life choices and came to his senses only after being forced to live with swine. Broke, disgraced, defeated and probably very smelly, he returns home to beg for a job. But before his prepared speech could begin, his loving father ran to hold him in his arms. The father ran past the hurt, past the shame and past the smell to touch his dearly loved child.
May we always remember the joy and peace that comes from the outstretched arms of those who love us, especially our Father in Heaven.