Image by Albrecht Fietz from Pixabay

The story of the prodigal son illustrates the foolishness of the son who thinks he knows best, and the grace of the father who waits patiently for him to return.

I imagine many of us can identify with this story. We have all been in that distant country. We have all thought we knew better than God only to discover that God knows what God is talking about!

Sometimes we think about this story as relating to a season of our lives. We go through dry patches in our spirituality, and then we return to the luscious fields of God’s unending love.

That of course can be true. But there are some days when we seem to move constantly from the distant country to the love of God and back again.

As our mood changes, as we allow our negative thoughts to pierce through the veil of faith, we find ourselves constantly oscillating between safety and danger, peacefulness and anxiety, hopelessness and hope. That can be a very difficult way to live.

The story of the prodigal son reminds us that there is a still, patient centre point to our lives. We may struggle to attain consistency in our feelings, but God always remains watchful, patiently waiting to welcome us home.

Even when we feel that we are ‘a long way off’, we are assured that God still longs for us and always has compassion for us. That was the son’s surprise: he felt that he had abandoned his father, and that he had to do something in order to return.

But he didn’t have to do anything. He was waiting for him. God always waits for us. Why? Because nothing can separate us from the love of God. The son discovered that. So must we.

This article was originally posted as EDWJ. Except for the title nothing has been changed.
Rev. Dr. John Swinton is founder of the university's Centre for Spirituality, Health and Disability.