It was 8 o’clock on Saturday morning and my husband, Tom (not his real name), had not yet returned from an outing with a friend the night before.
We had been married for three years. We were reasonably happy, but we were beginning to quarrel about a lot of things. Long before the phone rang that fateful Saturday, I knew in my bones that our marriage was over. Sure enough he told me that he would not be coming back home as he no longer wished to be married to me.
Devastated and broken-hearted, I cried out into the empty space “if my husband can’t love me forever, who will?” In words that were as clear as if they had been spoken, I heard: “I will love you forever”. Although I was a nominal Christian who seldom bothered with God, I knew that quiet reassurance reaching out to me in my pain, was God. Those words and their reality for me became my life-line. They supported and carried me for months and months helping me to cope with the loss of my husband, my marriage and my dreams.
I had done nothing to deserve God coming to tell me so specifically and personally, but I am sincerely grateful that in my moment of deepest pain and aloneness, God came and put his arms around me and held me tight and told me the most important thing of my life – that I am deeply loved by him, and always will be.
One would think that with the impact of this experience, I would never forget God and his love. Whilst I have enjoyed many years of a close and vibrant relationship with God, regrettably, there have been just as many years when I have battled to feel God’s presence and joy in my life.
With the passage of time, we not only forget our Father and his arms of love, but we start wrapping ourselves in all sorts of things which bit by bit cloud our experience and remembrance of God all the while getting pretty lost in our own worlds with our own selfish priorities, ambitions and concerns. We don’t ‘hear’ God’s invitations or feel his nudges so well anymore and then one day we land up in the wrong place, at the wrong time and blame God for not guiding us or caring enough for us to allow such a thing to happen.
In one of the Linn’s book they tell a story of a little girl who begs her parents to allow her a little time alone with her new baby brother. They are a little nervous but see that their daughter is not going to let up nagging them until she is able to have her way. With the door slightly ajar, they stay out of sight while keeping watch on the little girl. They hear their daughter say to the baby: “Please tell me about God, I am beginning to forget.”
I think we all need to be reminded of God’s love and of his dreams for us and the world.
Francine Rivers’ has written a wonderful modern day classic, Redeeming Love, about the Old Testament prophet Hosea and his faithful love for his unfaithful wife. It is the story of each person’s life really: God’s persistent faithfulness towards us and his confidence that even though we are constantly faithless, rude, disrespectful, irresponsible and all the rest, he will in the end convince us of his consistent, never-ending love.
For me, this is what the prodigal journey is all about – a journey we all have to make to fully understand, appreciate and accept God’s love.
We leave our father’s home full of excitement and expectations and travel to faraway places, where we experience sometimes great thrills and challenges, but also begin to learn that life is tough, sometimes too tough for us to handle on our own. When we have bumped our heads enough, maybe been disillusioned or hurt enough or experienced too many disappointments in life and love, we begin to remember our Father’s home and his unshakeable, faithful love. No matter how battle-worn we are or dirty, worthless or disgusting, we intrinsically know our Father will welcome us back, take us in his arms and love us as much as when we first left home. His love will not have changed but our appreciation and understanding of that love will be far deeper, steadfast and personal. We are on the way to loving him even as he loves us.
Unfortunately, our marriage did end and in that same year Tom died in a motor accident. Before he died, however, we had made our peace with each other and I believe knowing God loved me as he did, helped me to release Tom and move on. A decade later I met and married a special man to whom I am still married 33 years later, and who is the father of our two children.