By Lynn Cowell
“So he got up and went to his father. 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 15:20 (NIV)
My daughter, her two friends and I packed the car for our overnight trip to the mountains. Our plan was to pick up my son and head for the slopes for a wonderful day of tubing and making memories in the snow. Then reality set in with a series of disappointments.
Disappointment #1: When we arrived at my son’s apartment, he had decided not to go snow tubing with us.
Disappointment #2: The bitter wind made me want to crawl back in my car.
Disappointment #3: The girls weren’t having as much fun as I had expected.
Disappointment #4: When we arrived at the cabin, it wasn’t clean.
By this point, disappointment draped itself over my heart. So when the girls asked if there was an alternative to the homemade lasagna I’d planned for supper, I felt like losing it! I didn’t yell, but you know you don’t have to yell at someone to “yell” at someone!
The small issues throughout the day had created one big issue in my heart. My expectations that this mountain excursion was going to recharge, rejuvenate, renew me didn’t happen!
Expectations of others can easily cause bumps in my relationships. Often when I hit one of those bumps, I choose to wait. Wait for the phone call, text or email saying “I’m sorry” before moving on.
However, the Bible shows me a different way to respond to unmet expectations using the example of the father in the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15.
In the story, the son showed an audacious amount of disrespect by requesting his inheritance while his father was still living. As a parent, you could interpret this rudeness on endless levels. I am sure the father was more inconvenienced or disappointed than I was that snowy day in the mountains.
To make matters worse, the son’s choices after receiving the money caused more heartache. He had wasted his entire inheritance and had nowhere to go. So this desperate young man headed home.
It is the father’s next step that humbles me and causes me to reconsider my response to disappointment: “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him …”
While he was still a long way off …
The father had no idea why the son was returning. He could have been coming to ask for more money or possessions or land. However, no matter the son’s motives or attitude, the father’s love was in motion as soon as he saw his son. Not holding back to see what the son had to say, the father gave his love.
I wonder if like me, the father was ever tempted to keep score. If he did, not only would it have been uneven, there would have been a huge deficit. Father: 100. Son: -100.
Thankfully, God, our Heavenly father, is like the father in Luke 15. He continually extends love to us despite the deficit we bring to the relationship. He settled the score when Jesus died on the cross to take away our sin.
Because God freely and unconditionally pours love on me, I can freely give to others. I, too, can give up keeping score—with my family, my friends, even with the rude woman in customer service.
Because I am forgiven, loved and embraced I can forgive, love and embrace.
The father demonstrated love. He ran, he kissed, he gave. Love that is demonstrated is love that is felt. John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (NIV).
For me, I demonstrate love by laying down my expectations of others and stop keeping score. This becomes easier when I understand God’s great, unconditional love for me.
Thank you, Father for demonstrating a different way. Your love, through us, makes it possible to love others. Help me stop keeping score and open my eyes to see Your love poured over me. Teach me to rely on that love so I can pour love over others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
UP CHRISTIAN YOUTH MOVEMENT
NCCP Ecumenical Ministry – Church of the Risen Lord
University of the Philippines, Diliman Campus, QC