Today I propose we do a little what if-ing. Let’s “what-if?” the story that contains the prodigal son. It pretty much leaves us with some open-ended questions, I know.
Did Dad ever want to wring the son’s neck? Ever?
Where was Mom in all this?
What happened six weeks or six months later?
Did the kid suffer a relapse?
Imagine if Father’s Day fell a week following the prodigal son’s return. No, check that. Let’s pretend it occurred about six or seven months later. On that morning, the father—let’s call him Chanan (Hebrew for gracious)—awakens from a dreamless sleep and rubs his eyes so as to roust them from their hours of inertia. It is still dark, but an oil lamp casts a coppery glow inside the master’s bedroom, and he looks at the pleasing, sleeping form of his wife—oh, may as well: Chana. Hannah. Grace.
She stirs slightly and for a moment he only wishes to look at her, not interrupt her slumber, and when her breathing again falls to a soft purr, he smiles. Ah, Chana! How gracious our Yahweh is! The woman I adore is the woman I awaken to each morning…
He persists in this reverie for a few more holy moments before something draws his eyes past her to the tapestried fold in the door. Just over the delicate slope of Chana’s hip he sees the corner of a small parchment partially slid beneath the curtain. His brow plunges in puzzlement so he quietly rises from the bed and pads over to the door and stoops to retrieve the paper.
As he carefully slides it to himself, he notices a familiar hand has addressed it: “Gracious Father.” A note from Habib (dearly loved). His youngest. Chanan’s eyes mist as he remembers the long nights spent in this very room praying for Habib’s return, crying out to G-d with Chana that He would keep their boy from peril and destruction. The years were long and their inner woundings great, but Elohim proved powerful as always and His providential blessing brought palatial healing and restoration.
Chanan’s eyes welled and spilled over, mirroring his heart’s release. Habib. The little lamb that was lost. Now home. Their lamb once again. The moment was only spoiled by the jealousy of Aaron (lofty, exalted one) who, even to this day sulks and harbors inner hatred. He has gone to his own far country. Chanan sighed and petitioned for Aaron’s “return” once more…
Old, gnarled fingers lifted the parchment to his heart as Chanan walked nearer to the light source for better reading. He sat by the table and unfolded the document. Chana lightly breathed from the bed behind. Outside he could hear some of the animals coming to life and those who tended to them. Dawn was moments away.
It was your love that found me where I was—that despicable, hellish place—and with tender bands to my wrists and ankles, you pulled me home. I am a slave to your love and forever choose to remain in your care. I will spend the rest of my life in awe of such grace that never gave up on me, searched for me, located me and has made a home for me. And I will let such grace run its full course in me until I, too, become this grace to others. You and Mother are everything I never knew I wanted, but now that my eyes have been opened, I want naught else.
I thank Eternal G-d that I was delivered from the pit, but I also consider the far country a closed chapter in my book. I know it will come as no surprise to you, Father, but since my return, I have entertained thoughts of going back, but they were only thoughts, praise Yahweh, never actions! Today I declare I could never go back to where I was, for the beauty of where I am is so alluring and permanent.
But, Abba, I also want you to know that I am not only delivered from the pit and done with the far country, but I am determined to choose life always. You never let me finish my little speech back there on the hillside where I fell at your feet. I know now it was grace that stopped me short that day; your grace that finished my best intentions. But you must know, Papa, on this Father’s Day, since you gave me life, to quote beloved David: “I would rather be a doorkeeper in your house than to dwell in tents of wickedness.” I know he was singing about the G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob but I feel the need to declare my intent to serve you, Father, by living out all of my days as your son. This is my promise: your name, your values and your heart will be perpetuated through my life. With you is life. With you always I will remain.
This is the best way I know to thank you, Father. And to honor you. These are not mere words. Watch me. You will not be disappointed.
Happy Father’s Day.
Yeah, that’d be a pretty cool card. Parents of prodigals would die smiling if this scenario ever became their own.
But in the larger story: do you see yourself anywhere in this narrative?