Sarah Bessey writes at www.sarahbessey.com, where she has become an accidental grassroots voice for postmodern and emerging women in the Church on issues from mothering to politics and theology to ecclesiology. Her writing has been well received in many publications including ChurchLeaders.com, Relevant Magazine, A Deeper Story, SheLoves Magazine, and Emergent Village. Sarah also works with Mercy Ministries of Canada, a non-profit residential home for women seeking freedom from life-controlling issues. She is a happy-clappy follower of Jesus and social justice wannabe. Sarah lives in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada with her husband, Brian, and their three tinies: Anne, Joseph and Evelynn Joan.
I'm also proud to call her my cyber-pal.
We call my Dad "El-Sha-Dad, The Dad of More Than Enough."
It's a (hopefully not too blasphemous) joke based on one of the names of God from the Bible, El-Shaddai, the God of More Than Enough. My sister started it as a lark, a way to make fun of how he provided for us, but now it's funny because it's so true. My Dad is an incredibly generous man, he loves us fiercely, and because of this, it's been easy for me to see God as a loving Father, my way was made easier because he walked ahead of me. Growing up, I was secure in the knowledge of two things: first, we cheer for the Boston Bruins come hell or high water or Harry Sinden, and, second, no matter what, my Dad loved me, always had loved me, always would love me, world without end, amen.
I think that's why I always read the Parable of the Prodigal Son a bit differently than most. I mean, I absolutely see myself in the Prodigal Son. We've all taken our inheritance and squandered it horribly. We've all regretted our choices. We've all run away from the ones that love us best. We've all longed to go home. And I also see myself in the Older Brother, too. After all, my standing as a know-it-all is legend in our clan and, like most people that grew up in church, I've confused my work, my right opinions and doctrine, for love and relationship with God.
But even so, for me, this parable is, always has been, always will be about the Father.
The Father that let his son go. The Father that provided for him, even in his sin, in a way that defies logic and reason and parenting manuals. The Father that threw a feast for a broken and defiant rebel. The Father that tried to pull a sulky older brother into the celebration. The Father that has already given everything he had to his children. The Father that celebrated and stocked a party, that welcomed without qualification or expectation of obedience, that didn't bother to hear excuses or reasons before kissing and dancing.
It's the Father's story, really.
I have profoundly disappointed my dad. I have made choices that devastated him. When I stank of slop and lies and wrong choices, legalism and big hairy opinions of how I would do it better than him, there was a realization that my Dad would forgive me. He would forgive me because it was his very nature to love me. He couldn't stop loving me for a moment, no matter how I screwed up, because he had learned to love well at the feet of Jesus. His heart so resembles what I imagine as the heart of Jesus that he carries the scent of a father's grace wherever he walks through my life.
So when I read this parable, even now, today, I cry. I cry every time because I see my Dad in that story. I see my Dad as the Father, running down the road to me, sandals flapping, robe billowing, arms outstretched, half-laughing and half-sobbing, just so happy to see me, to hold me, to love me.
I think sometimes that I'm living in a parable. I don't know really what all it means, but it feels like a story I want to tell, I want people to find God. It makes me want to blaze a path to God for my own tinies, I want to be clear picture for their hearts, a small foretaste of the crazy, unrestrained, unconditional love that they can enjoy in our God, so that when they rebel or turn up their nose or stumble or disappoint, that they know I'll be on the road, that God is already on the road, watching for them when they are still a long way off. I want to have ears to hear and eyes to see what God is showing me. And there is something there, in my Dad, that whispers to me of my Father, of your Father, that truly he's yearning only to hold you, to welcome you, to be with you, to love you, he's already watching for you from a long way off.