July 4 is a big celebration in my family. And again this year, we gathered at my sister’s home in Jackson, Mississippi. Our attending family was something like this: 20 adults, 8 teenagers, 4 elderly, 1000 children (oh, sorry typo!) 10 children, and one infant. We ate, we cleaned the kitchen, we swam, we fished, we ate some more, we cleaned more dishes, we laughed, we looked at pictures, we ate, we slept very little, we ate, we washed dishes again, we cried, we talked about nothing, we talked from the heart, we got frustrated, we ate, we prayed, we churched together and we ate again. It was wonderful, messy, loving family days…..but yet….
….some were not among us. The names I longed to see were: Carolyn, Meme, Stephanie, Nick, Sarah, Josh, Jonathan, Mary Ashton, and Scott. So as wonderful as the family days were for all they were incomplete as our entire family was not with us. Yes, we had fun but our hearts held a place for those unable to attend. We longed for them that weekend.
In the story of the Prodigal son, the Father longed for his son to come home. As the son arrives home, the Father embraces him and orders a grand celebration. But the older brother who never left home and has remained obedient has a very different feeling at his brother’s arrival and the planned celebration. Look at these words from the story:
‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
“ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ “ Luke 15:29-31
Today, my burden is the elder son in me. I see God welcoming home the foreigner and I know I’m called to what God is doing in the world but still I choose to not be a part of it? God is throwing a party for the people of world who come to know Him and I’m standing on the porch of eternity asking him, “Why”? Have I yet to grasp that ‘God so loved THE WORLD’ and not just my little, tiny world? Do I not realize that I am or have been the prodigal son too? He’s welcomed us home. Now, let’s help Him throw a really big party for those who have yet to meet Him!
Just like our July 4th celebration, we celebrated with all those who were there but desperately missed those who had conflicts. Ours hearts KNEW we had loved ones absent. We wanted our entire family together, in that place, as one. We longed for them.
God’s heart KNOWS all his children aren’t home yet and He longs for each one to come. God calls everyone my brother and my sister. He calls the people of China, my brother. He calls the people of Haiti, my sister….He longs for all….each one to come home….Create in me your heart for the world, Father. Amen.