“I can’t breathe – it’s agony wondering where you are. Picture me on my knees – have you run too far? Can you hear… can you hear the sound of my heart break with each step you take? Can you feel… can you feel me when I say: ‘Please come back to me. I miss you; will you come to your senses? Please come back to me….’”*
The loving father pleas for his prodigal son. The son - broken and contrite - was ready to fling himself at his father’s feet begging for forgiveness. Meanwhile, the “sensible” brother lurked in the shadows, watching the spectacle with disdain.
Which one are you?
Do you wonder at the enthusiasm of other Christians and think you just don’t get it?
Are they faking it or is this something you can have, too? Is it something you want? A flame minutely flickers in your heart, yearning to be fanned into a blaze, but it wavers feebly in indecision.
Do you think sometimes of the icy blackness in the corner of your heart - a hardness that sometimes threatens to overwhelm, a hardness that produces your proud thoughts, your flashes of anger, your cold feelings toward those you should love?
This is the hard heart that only you know about - only you and God. He sees it. He knows your ache to be healed, paralysed by an apathy and despair that tempts you to think, Maybe this is as good as it gets. That’s why He’s offered to give you a heart of flesh to replace that heavy weight, your stony heart (see Ezekiel 36:26).
Although your feelings tell you something different, don’t ignore the truth that God cares. Even at the shopping centre you see sparrows darting about between the cars searching for crumbs. Such tiny creatures - oblivious to the wider world you live in, yet cared for by your Heavenly Father. Aren’t you worth more than many sparrows? (see Matthew 10:31)
God knows all about your hypocrisy – the times you strive to be “good” but inside you know it’s all a pretence. He knows your inability to create your own joy and zeal for worship. He knows your stagnation and the feeling that you are just going through the motions of “doing church”. Yet there is no condemnation; just a plea to come back to the true Source of life. Why subsist on chlorinated tap water when the springs of living water are offered for free?
When Jesus stood at the Temple steps and denounced the teachers of the law and the Pharisees, there were tears in His eyes. His face contorted with sorrow and anguish, He proclaimed their sins of pride and hardness of heart. While God condemned these leaders, He still nursed compassion for the individuals.
Jesus cried, “How many times I wanted to put my arms around all your people, just as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, but you would not let me!” (Matthew 23:37, TEV) This is not the wrath of a fed-up God but the emotional weeping of a loving heart cut deeply. It is a gut-wrenching plea to come back to the shelter of His arms.
It’s not too late for you.
Whatever you do, wherever you go, God’s love is there. In black and white you read that nothing can separate you from the love of God (see Romans 8:38). But it’s not just black and white, it’s reality. Even as the weeks and months slip past when you turn aside from time with God, preoccupied with other things, God’s love is there. When you look at the Bible on the shelf and pass it over for a magazine or turn to the TV remote control, God’s love is still there. As you come to church with a smile pasted on your face and your thoughts drift to your plans for afterwards while others listen to the sermon, God’s love is still there.
Though you don’t feel it, God’s love is still there. He is searching relentlessly for you, His lost sheep. He is calling you.
What will you do?
* Michelle Tumes, “Please Come Back” from Listen, Sparrow Records, 1998.
(Originally published in “Record” – www.record.net.au - on September 30, 2006)