So the servants turned back to the farm, rushing off to carry out their master’s orders, whilst he, my father, half carrying me, helped me back to the safety of the house.
I was overwhelmed by the reception. Servants were standing inside the entrance clapping and cheering. Praising God … praising God for my return. Tears streamed down my face as they parted and I saw my mother standing there, her face glistening with her own tears, her smile lighting up the room. Only then did my father release me as I staggered forward, half-collapsing into her arms. Eager servants supported us and helped me to a bench. Hunger had weakened me; the journey had exhausted me, and the welcome had overwhelmed me.
I was home.
But not everyone was so thrilled to see me. Perez was angry at the generosity my father showed me. It took my father a while to reconcile us, and things are still uncomfortable at times
As I was absorbed back into family life I made a point of consulting Perez before taking any action. He was my older brother, and the sole heir to my father’s estate. I wanted him to know that I understood that and to see that I had no claim here anymore. I make every effort not to be a drain on either my father’s generosity, or my brother’s inheritance.
I worked for my father, and he paid me a fair wage after consulting both Perez and myself. Gradually, through careful living and with good guidance from my father’s business advisers, I built up a nest egg that enabled me to buy property of my own, to marry and have children. I was determined never to be a drain on Perez and I have succeeded in that. He realised the effort I put into being independent.
Today, we are still not close as some brothers are, but we respect one another. My parents are old now, but their love for both of us is as strong as ever. It has bound Perez and me together, in spite of all that has happened, and we are content to be brothers, living our own lives in our own way, guided by our father.
It is our father’s love that unites us. I pray that the imprint of his love on our lives will continue long after he is no longer here, and that such love may continue on as a memory, down the generations in our family, a memory that is never ending.
Our father’s love…
I could scarcely breathe when Agnes finished speaking. Tears were streaming down my face. This was my story! But I could never go home. Never. I couldn’t bring myself to admit that I was wrong and throw myself on my family’s mercy.
“My friends,” Agnes said, “this is my story. I did the same as Aaron. I too rebelled, left home, and got into trouble. I was raped and had a child, a little girl, who died soon after she was born as I was unable to look after her properly.”
Agnes paused as she looked down at the floor for a moment. Then she took a deep breath and continued.
“I went home. But my family rejected me. They shut the door in my face. I had nowhere to go, no one to help me. In desperation, one cold winter’s night, just like this one, I came here. And here I met love. From the people who worked here, but, even more than that, from my heavenly Father, God Himself. I realised that the story I heard that night spoke about God’s love for me. He was watching for me and He ran towards me with His arms outstretched in welcome.
“My friends, His arms are open wide for you too. He wants to show you how much He loves you. Please hear me. He brought you here this evening. Answer His invitation. Come to the front and chat to me. I will introduce Him to you. Come.”
In my mind I rejected what she said. So I was surprised when I found my heart beating out of my chest as I got up to walk to the front. I did not understand what I was doing. It was as if something, or someone, was guiding me to the front.
Agnes’ welcoming smile was full of love.
We talked for a long time that night. Agnes shared how much Jesus loved me and how He would change my life. In the end I invited Him to be my Lord.
She was right. God the Father welcomed me with open arms and a love so strong it has changed everything about my life.
Now, two years later, I stand motionless outside the entrance to my father’s office block. I know this is what I have to do. I need to be reconciled with my family. I’ve worked at the shelter for a while, and have been offered permanent work with the church that runs it. I’m happy, but this is the one thing I still need to do. My heavenly Father has accepted and loved me for two years. Now I need to meet with my earthly father and ask his forgiveness.
Taking a deep breath, I push through the swing doors. Whatever happens in the next ten minutes I know that I am loved by my heavenly Father more than I ever hoped anyone would love me. I am his child. I have no idea whether my earthly father will forgive me but it is God’s love for me that moves me forward.
My Father’s love …