How to know the heart of the father? Yes please, tell that story and teach me.
How many books have you read that simply drew you in? You could not put the book down for the story was so compellingly told it has to unfold for you. I just read a book that pulled me in and now requires me to push it out to you.
Henri Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son. Oh how I thought I knew that story of the prodigal son. You may too…
You’ve pursued understanding and experiencing love your whole life – and may still be. I know I am.
This gray haired gal (under the brown!) has always wanted to be loved, even though I grew up in a home with one set of parents and have lived with the same husband since 1979, I still seek the depths of all-encompassing love.
Or is God still calling me closer for He has more in store – for I’ve withheld some part of me, protecting it, essentially rejecting the fullness of God’s redeeming love? Have I failed to grasp the greatness – and gentleness – of the Father’s love?
Are you wondering what this has to do with the book? I was surprised too. I expected a story of the wayward son yet discovered love; deep compassionate, compelling love – calling me closer still.
Nouwen saw a poster of Rembrandt’s painting of The Return of the Prodigal Son. This poster and painting became a part of Nouwen’s life story as he studied the characters, moving the poster from room to room throughout his home, office and church over the years. Nouwen even had opportunity to sit in front of the original painting, studying it for hours, in the Hermitage in Russia many years ago.
Nouwen was drawn into the characters portrayed in the painting; the younger son, the elder son, the bystanders and the father; yet it is the heart of each character that Nouwen identifies with that makes the story so compelling. I literally identified with each one of them as well. And that makes a story worth sharing as you may see yourself painted into this story too.
The younger, wayward son makes a demand of his father. We may see and hear the younger son saying give me my inheritance NOW. That statement translates into I wish you were dead, then and now. Oh how the heart of the father must have broken, yet today, how often do we too demand gimme, gimme, gimme – I want it all NOW?
And we turn away from our Provider looking for the provision for our protection and purpose and ultimately for our satisfaction. And the Father’s heart breaks once again…
Yet the wayward son realizes even his father’s hired men are better off than he once he’s squandered his inheritance – and he returns, desiring to become a hired hand in his father’s home.
The father RUNS to him in joy when he sees his lost son returning home. He does not give his son time to apologize or explain, he simply wraps his arms around him to welcome him home. Give him the best, we must celebrate, exclaims the father. That which was lost is now found. Can you see the old man and feel his joy? It brings tears to my eyes.
Just like God – his heart is so broken by our behavior – yet he lovingly lets us go our own way, for love includes choices and not chains.
The elder son scornfully judges both the lost brother and his father as he says you never even gave me a kid (baby goat) to party with my friends yet you gave all to him and now you are giving him even more. Does the elder son really mean the father is now giving away HIS share? He begrudges that action and judges it too, refusing to respond to his father’s invitation.
Have you realized that the Father runs once in the Bible – to gather his lost child to himself. Did you know at the time, it was considered horrifying, undignified and unacceptable behavior? He “lifted his skirts” exposing his legs and ran…revealing his loving heart.
The Pharisees would have judged that behavior scornfully as it is NOT done that way. How often have I too looked at a situation and judged it – wrongly? Far too often…
Yet I’d missed this part of the story – the father went outside to bring the elder son inside, into the celebration, for he too is part of the father’s heart and home. We may stay home or stray, yet we wander, judge and condemn.
We, like the elder son, become slaves to obedience, begrudging our obligations rather than serving joyfully. My list is long. I’ve gotta go, do, be…check, check, checking the to dos off of my laundry list of to dos – yet I’m actually lost in the doing rather than the being.
The Father comes outside to call us in saying all I’ve ever had is yours; and we stand hands on hips, critical and condemning yet being called. Will we answer – or turn away?
The heart of the Father is pure. He desires us to know all He has is already ours. His arms are open, His hands compassionate, His heart full of love, just love. For God is love.
Will I return to the Father today in total surrender, letting His compassionate hands rest on me as I rest in Him? Will you?
The Father invites us in – actually, He is pursuing us even now, coming to us here, calling us home. Whether we have been wayward, willful, wanton or willing, He runs to us, wanting us to abide in Him.
I pray we open the door and step in.
PS – You’ve gotta read this book! (FYI-Amazon does not allow affiliates in Louisiana, so the links to the book are without affiliation.)
22 thoughts on “How to Know the Heart of the Father”
I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by Nouwen, but I haven’t read this one yet. I’ll have to check it out! Thanks for sharing this on Booknificent Thursday at Mommynificent.com!
I love the story of the prodigal son. Thank you for sharing it and this wonderful book. I am going to pin your post to my book board so I will be able to find it and of course, share it.
Maree Dee, that book simply took me to a much deeper understanding of God’s redeeming love. POWERFUL! Hugs, Susan
“withheld some part of me, protecting it, essentially rejecting the fullness of God’s redeeming love”
Ironic, isn’t it, that we would think that we have to protect ourselves from such a loving God? We’ve obviously believed the liar, the serpent, who whispers to us like he did to Eve, that God really doesn’t have our best interests at heart, that He’s really holding out on us. Then, instead of truly being able to receive the fullness of His love, we close ourselves off from God and walk through the wilderness of the soul instead of walking in the garden with Him and experiencing His love and joy and peace.
Lord, help us to banish the liar and believe Your truth! In Jesus’ name!
Thank you for hosting and sharing the book.I love the story of the prodigal son.
Thanks for hosting, Susan!
Such a great thought… that the emptiness we feel isn’t lack, but the voice of the Father calling us into deeper places with Him. I’ll sit with that for a while! Thanks!
What beautiful reflections on the prodigal son! No matter how many times I hear this story, it never gets old. It is such a tender, precious display of our Father’s love for us–no matter what! Thank you so much for sharing! 🙂
Such powerful insights!
Sounds like a great book Susan.
It does sound like a good book. I have studied this, under Jewish law, he could have had him stoned, and he only went home hungry, not even repentant, but God wants sons and daughters and not slaves. You serve out of love. Even the Father’s servants were not slaves like we think of them. I wrote an post called ” The Prodigal’s Sister “, because I felt like the brother. However, we love His love is deeper still. This sounds like a great book. Thanks, Susan.
always loved the image of God pursuing me in spite of me. tweeted and pinned. (:
I still haven’t read Nouwen’s book…must change that soon! Thanks for the reminder to pick it up, Susan.
I’ve always thought the story should be called the Prodigal Sons – because both were lost in different ways and the Father loved them. He never condemned – not the older one who thought he was right for doing what he did and not the younger son whose wrongs are more glaring. But the younger one came to his senses and returned; we read no such thing about the older one.
Good post. Blessings to you.
His compelling love- draws us closer still…<3 I love Henri Nouwen's writings! The word, Pursue, was my One Word for last year. I learned a great deal about the Father's love that never ceases to pursue us!
I hope the first half of your January has been fabulous!
My morning devotions was on how God loves us too. I think my Daddy is sending me some extra luvins today 🙂 Thanks for sharing Susan. Praying this deeper understanding of God’s love would soak deep into your spirit, right down to your soul!
I’ve got to read some Henri Nouwen. I’ve seen him quoted in so many places, but have never read anything of his all the way through.
Thanks for the heads up.
I love the story of the prodigal son. Have you read Long Way Gone, by Charles Martin? It’s a fantastic, fictional account of the story in modern times.
Susan, I loved that book too, and it only enhanced my understanding of one of my favorite scripture stories. Thanks for sharing it here, friend!
This is beautiful, Susan! Blessings!
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