The other day I was driving home from Florida, through South Carolina. As I pulled off the exit and into the parking lot of the nearest gas station, a scene unfolded in front of me that caused me to question whether or not I was actually dreaming, or awake.
In the middle of the parking lot a woman was swinging violently at her little daughter with a belt, whacking her multiple times as the girl fell to the pavement.
Voltage shot through my veins like a pitbull on crack! I put the car in park, and bolted across the parking lot to interrupt the abuse. [There is a difference between discipline and demolition]. As I neared the woman, I attempted to grab the belt from her in mid-swing. She then turned her aggression toward me, and told me to mind my own business.
"This is my business!" I said.
As she cussed me out in the parking lot, the little girl climbed back in to the car. I kept asking her if she was okay, and she nodded through tears...
After a candid conversation with this woman, she got back into her car and sped away.
There is a beautiful story in the New Testament about a rebellious son who had chosen to disrespect his father, and chose a path of self-destruction. The parable of the Prodigal Son builds tension as the tragedy unfolds; how many times have we seen this movie? The path of violence, greed, and lust that leaves a trail of broken hearts along the way.
As the prodigal son wrestles his way through reconciliation [step 8 of recovery], he humbles himself and returns to the expectation of the discipline he deserves. He practices his speech: "Father, I have sinned agains heaven and against you, and I am no longer worthy to be in the family. But if you'll offer me a job as a slave, I will serve you for the rest of my life."
"But while he was still a long way off..." the Father saw him and ran to him, and embraced him.
This. Is. My. Favorite. Sentence. In. The. Bible.
Aristotle once wrote, "A proud man makes slow steps." In the ancient world, the way a man walks shows his character of reverence and honor. This was obscene behavior for a dignified man; To see an elderly father running at full sprint, with a pair of binoculars in hand - to embrace his humiliated son!
How do you view God? Do you see Him with a weapon with which he is poised to strike you in the parking lot in front of a chorus of witnesses? Do you anticipate lightening to strike you in your brokenness and rebellion?
Over and over and over again, Jesus illustrates through the use of Story - the heart of a daddy, who will go to any lengths to rescue and embrace his child. God is waiting at the edge of the driveway, wiping away tears of joy at the return of his wayward child.