Always Glad to See You. God.

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I awakened at 5:30 AM thinking about two young guys who, for reasons unknown to me, have not returned my emails or calls over the past month.

I’m somewhat accustomed to people not returning my calls, especially over the past few months, since from February through September, I’ve been raising over $600,000 so the CS Lewis Foundation can convert “The Kilns” into a year around study center. It has been my experience that when people know you’re asking for money, they don’t always call back!

I am not asking these young guys for anything specifically. In both cases the friendships have been reciprocal and I hope I’ve invested more than I’ve received. I am writing this not to purge my soul, but rather to tell you of my thoughts at 5:30 AM when all my thoughts were pushed aside by a simple phrase I found reassuring. “God is always glad to see you.”

“God is always glad to see you.” As the phrase rolled around in my head, it quickly flowed into my heart and warmed it. The Psalmist asked, “Who else but to thee can I turn?”

I am a fortunate man, loved by my wife and kids and a fair number of friends as well, but even I know that they are probably not always glad to see me! (Truth be known, I’M NOT always glad to see me!!)

Henri Nouwen’s “The Return of the Prodigal Son” is a wonderful study of the parable, but more importantly it is a study of Nouwen himself and his growing awareness that God is always glad to see him.

That “God is always glad to see you,” is the obvious point of the parable. “So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.”

Among Nouwen’s observations:

¢â‚¬¢ We yearn for a home where we can be safe, “an unambiguous sense of safety, a lasting home.” That home is God.

¢â‚¬¢ Yet we are all prodigals. “I am the prodigal son every time I search for unconditional love where it cannot be found.”

¢â‚¬¢ We find it difficult to accept God’s love, and in so doing, become the older brother in the story, distant and aloof. Nouwen talks about finding it difficult at times to allow people to hug him, trying to understand the meaning of the hug rather than accepting it. This is often rooted in our own self-loathing. (In researching the prodigal Nouwen learned when the younger son asked for his inheritance before dad died, he was essentially saying “I WANT YOU DEAD NOW.” Talk about despicable!) Yet when the son returns home his father looks at him through eyes of love and “put his arm around the wayward son and kissed him.” Ron Hansen’s retelling of the story in “Atticus” summarizes the point. “This is the story of a son acting absolutely unforgivably and of a father forgiving him absolutely.” Jesus’ message? God really loves you!

¢â‚¬¢ We think of ourselves as seekers, but really, it is God, the Father, who seeks us. Nouwen summarizes it this way: ” “The question is not, ¢â‚¬ËœHow am I to find God?’ but ¢â‚¬ËœHow am I to let myself be found by him.’ The question is not ¢â‚¬ËœHow am I to know God?’ but ¢â‚¬ËœHow am I to let myself be known by God?’ And, finally, the question is not ¢â‚¬ËœHow am I to love God?’ but ¢â‚¬ËœHow am I to let myself be loved by God?”

¢â‚¬¢ Nouwen eventually sees a deeper meaning in the parable when a friend tells him, “whether you are the younger son or the elder son, you have to realize that you are called to become the father.” BY that he means–the mature person loves, forgives, is patient, seeks out the wanderer and conveys hope–always glad to see even the person who has wronged him.

And so I arise today joyfully knowing God is glad to see me, and mindful that people need to know I am glad to see them too.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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