"And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him" (Luke 15:20, ESV. Read the whole chapter about the Prodigal son.)
How many times each day throughout our busy weeks and months do we play the proud Prodigal and do our own “brave” thing? Each decision—insignificant or momentous—gives us the opportunity to hang on to God’s hand in utter dependence, or let go and go our own way to never good consequences. When we come to our senses, the distance between us and God feels like a boundless chasm of guilt, shame, and regret. Yet, the reality is that he never is very far away at all.
Going through life can be like walking through an unfamiliar room lit with a strobe light, or one where someone is constantly turning the lights on and off. We confront people and situations which bring both darkness and light. It can be disorienting and exhausting. Our ultimate goal is to get from one side of the room to the other in one piece, to move through our lives holy and preserved. But there are a gazillion unseen hazards seeking our hurt.
The constant and disorienting moving from light to dark to light to dark forces us to press on in faith because we can’t always see clearly where we’re going or what’s in front of us.
Growing up, my family frequently took the once traditional driving vacation in summer. Once we stopped to explore the Cave of the Winds located in Manitou Springs, Colorado. The tour took us deep into the heart of the earth. To give us a full appreciation of how dark a cave really was, the lights were turned off. Parents were instructed to take the hands of children, and not to move an inch. The lights went out and it truly was dark!
Being the proud little man that I was, I pulled free of dad’s hand to scratch my nose and shift my feet a bit, turning around trying to see in the darkness—just for a second. I was brave—just for second. Then I reached for the comfort of a hand again.
When the lights came on I was panicked to discover that I wasn’t holding my dad’s hand. It was the hand of a stranger and dad was nowhere immediately visible. Actually, he was only a few feet away and, to my relief, we were quickly reunited.
As with the Psalmist, as the deer pants for water, our hearts long after and draw us toward God (Psalm 42), yet there are moments our self lets go of his hand and we do those things He never intended for us to do. We end up standing in the dark holding the wrong hand.
Our lives become flawed by sin, yet we’re still people after God’s own heart. The stains of sin are not indelible when washed in Christ’s blood. With Paul, we can say, "I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of [perfection]. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13-14).
God is loving, faithful, and patient. When we pull away, he’ll let us go. When we wake up to our folly, his hand is always right there, open, reaching toward us. But better yet, why even pull away at all? There’s nothing wimpy about dependence on God. Real men and women aren’t afraid to be seen holding His hand.