Giddy, Godly Delight

The Story of The Delighted Father

Psalm 126 - 5 minute read

"God wants to rescue you because He delights in you."

God created humanity to be in relationship with Him. This is clear even from the very beginning. Hebrew word Eden — a beautiful garden high on a mountain where humans had perfect proximity to God — means delight. It was here that humanity first shared in God's joy at their fellowship and adopted it as their own. Today, we often find ourselves out of proximity to God and away from home, so to speak. Here is a quote that sums up the way many Christians view their relationship with God from The Return of The Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming by Henri Nouwen, a priest, theologian, and author.
“For most of my life I have struggled to find God, to know God, to love God. I have tried hard to follow the guidelines of the spiritual life — pray always, work for others, read the Scriptures — and to avoid the many temptations to dissipate myself. I have failed many times but always tried again, even when I was close to despair.

Now I wonder whether I have sufficiently realized that during all this time God has been trying to find me, to know me, and to love me. The question is not “How am I to find God?” but “How am I to let myself be found by him?” The question is not “How am I to know God?” but “How am I to let myself be known by God?” And, finally, the question is not “How am I to love God?” but “How am I to let myself be loved by God?” God is looking into the distance for me, trying to find me, and longing to bring me home.”
In Luke 15, we see a beautiful example of God's delight in His children; a story that illustrates how, even when we fail to trust God, when we offend Him, when we selfishly reject His way of living life, He is overjoyed by our return to Him. This story is commonly known as the Parable of the Prodigal — or "Lost" — Son. You may have heard it. But Jesus didn't title his parables, and neither did the biblical authors. That came way later, when the Bible was being organized into sections by chapters and verses.

Nouwen says that he thinks the story should be titled "The Story of The Two Sons" because of the emphasis it puts on the elder brother's resentment of the celebration and his lack of joy at his brother's return. But most of all, this story emphasizes the father's compassion toward both of his sons. The son that selfishly rejected him only to return when he realized his wrong, and the son that stayed and obeyed but grew bitter when it mattered. Maybe the story should be titled "The Story of the Delighted Father," because of the giddiness, grace, and compassion that he greets and celebrates the return of his son with.

Many of us have our own experiences with walking away from our place at home with God. We might think that for some, that is a long and one still in progress, but for others, that story is one far in the past. But we leave the table more often than we might think.
Nouwen, again, words it most potently: "I am the prodigal son every time I search for unconditional love where it cannot be found.”
When the prodigal child returns, the compassionate Father offers no scolding, no look of disapproval, no lecture or lesson. Instead, he offers only forgiveness, love, and the joy and excitement of an elaborate party. His son is finally returning to a relationship with with him, and he is delighted beyond belief, beyond attention to custom, beyond tradition, beyond containment. So, he runs to meet his son and holds him in his arms, close to his heart.

The same is true of our return to God. Whether the journey home was long and hard or a few steps away. Whether we return to Him or are rescued by Him. He eagerly runs to meet us and transforms our tears, our grief, and our sorrow with His compassionate embrace. He replaces our brokenness by sharing His own infinite joy with us and offering His own glory to us.
And for those who never left or who have already returned, He asks to realize the proximity we have had to Him and to be transformed by that proximity into a picture of the Father Himself. The Father calls the elder son out of bitterness and encourages him to act like Him: to selflessly and compassionately participate in the giving, to step into the same pure joy himself because he had the gifts of the Father all along.
Rembrandt van Rijn, The Return of the Prodigal Son, c. 1661–1669. 262 cm × 205 cm.
Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg