I ran across an article written a few years ago by Tammy Marcelain about a book by Henri Nouwen. It reminded me of an important truth that I had the opportunity to share with a high school student just this week.
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 TNIV).
A number of years ago, I read The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen. I remember thinking about Henri’s thoughts on the older brother. Henri shared truths that sharpen and shaped me on each page. Here is one that especially captured my heart to this day:
Sometimes, people wonder: Whatever happened to the elder son? … I am left alone with these questions. Just as I do not know how the younger son accepted the celebration or how he lived with his father after his return, I also do not know whether the elder son ever reconciled himself with his brother, his father, or himself. What I do know with unwavering certainty is the heart of the father. It is a heart of limitless mercy.
How many of us hold ourselves back from believing we are fully forgiven, fully redeemed, and fully loved? This is an area that does not come easily for me. I’m guessing, but it may not come easily for you? However, this is a place where I have chosen to believe God’s truth over my inadequate understanding. My old understanding says, “I am as loved as I deserve to be loved — based on my actions and thoughts.” But I refuse to continue to view myself that way — through merely human eyes (2 Corinthians 5:14-21).
I choose to believe that I am fully forgiven, fully redeemed, and fully loved because God is God, and God relentlessly loves me this way. In these moments, as I think about how fully and really loved I am by my Father in heaven, tears come. To sit and reflect upon this is more than my emotions can take in without tears beginning to fall.
God has cleansed me from my sins! With each confession, I am reminded that I am fully forgiven, fully redeemed, and fully loved! Unfortunately — or maybe fortunately — He has left the memories of those past sins. I know where I have failed in the last week and where I have fallen short to love as Jesus loves in so many ways. It is in those moments that my human weakness is so apparent; and then in the midst of that realization to fully realize that I am loved by God with limitless mercy, loved especially, that I cannot hold back my praise, my adoration, and gratefulness. How can I fully express what it means to know, to really know, that I am truly loved by God? I am reminded of the lyrics of the song “How He Loves Us,” sung by the David Crowder Band:
He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.
And oh, how He loves us so,
Oh how He loves us,
How He loves us all
Yeah, He loves us, Oh! how He loves us, Oh! how He loves us, Oh! how He loves.
O how He loves us!
I think that if I knew, if we knew, just how much we were loved, our hearts would draw closer to Him, closer than we could imagine. Rather than choosing anger, frustration, or impatience with others, we would have so much love in us that we could react to others out of love and not the other things.
Each day, I pray for wisdom, purity of heart, integrity, humility and to love God more than I did the day before. But starting today, I am going to add to that request. I am going to ask God to help me realize his great love for me — to realize it more today than the day before.
We serve a God who is ever calling us, ever holding out His hand, ever believing in the best we can be. May I not close my eyes to those precious gifts and always realize that He is ever watching the horizon for my every move in His direction so He can show … how loves me!