Just a little over 24 hours ago, I stood and watched my son get on a plane that would take him across the state, back to his home after spending 5 days at my house for Christmas. I stood alongside my husband…I stood alongside another mom and dad sending their son home…I stood alongside a dad and his twin daughters as they sent their wife and mommy somewhere.
We all stood, watching our loved one walk through the forbidden area of security. I watched my son, CD. When someone would move in my way, where I couldn’t see him, I would skootch over until I could, taking David with me. I watched the back of his head getting farther away. I watched him as he stood there waiting to move forward in the line (David and I commented that, as he is standing in one place and waiting, he sways back and forth…just like me 😊) I watched him as he finally gathered up his personal belongings…and then I watched him until the final millisecond, when he turned a corner to where I could see him no more.
Just five days before, I also stood and watched. I stood on tiptoe in the hallway of the airport, facing the double doors of entry, behind others standing and watching, and I looked for his familiar silhouette…the familiar shape of his head…that familiar gait. And when I finally saw it, I was overcome with joy!
There have been many times that I have stood by our window or stood on our porch, watching and waiting for CD to come home from somewhere. I especially remember the day he came home after a particularly devastating break-up…and I knew that he would need to be loved on sooner than later when he drove up to the house.
My own daddy has stood and watched me most of my life. I remember him standing and watching me almost every single time I backed out of the driveway and drove down our street in my car, especially if I was going away for a while. Even now, when David and I go to visit my parents, both of them still stand outside and watch, til we are no longer visible, as we pull away from their house to go home…waving goodbye until our car is out of sight. And I kinda have a feeling that they watch with anticipation when we’re close to arriving.
When CD was just an infant, he and I loaded up in our little car and took a trip to Houston from Waco to visit my parents. My mother told me, not too long ago, that as I drove away to head back to Waco that final day, my dad got in his car and followed me until I was clearly out of town before he turned around and went back home. That’s quite a ways in Houston.
But you know, standing and watching isn’t a new thing.
I know we’ve all heard the story six ways to Sunday. But to me, it never ever gets old. I’m talking about the story of the prodigal son. You…and me…and that person you know (yes, that person) are represented in this story somewhere. So to me, it’s almost the perfect story to learn some pretty important truths…and it bears revisiting.
It’s the story of the son who came to his dad and demanded his inheritance early. The son who decided to live his own life, his own way, on his own schedule, even if it hair-lipped the pope. The son who didn’t really give a flying fig what anyone, including his very loving father, thought about what he was doing.
As his son was walking away, I’m sure the father stood and watched. I’m sure he stood there on his porch for as long as he possibly could, keeping an eye on his son until the final millisecond, when he turned a corner to where he could see him no more. I wonder if the son ever turned and waved one last time.
In his leaving and living his own way, the son loses all the inheritance, lives foolishly, comes to regret it and decides to go back home to see if his dad will just allow him to work as a servant. And the dad stands on the front porch…like he has done every single day since his son left…and, possibly standing on tiptoe, watches for him.
Looking for that familiar silhouette…looking for the familiar shape of his head…looking for that familiar gait. And then he saw him…he recognized him from a long way off. And on the first sighting of his son, at the very first sign of him coming home, what does he do?
Burn with anger? No.
Stand in judgment? No.
Cross his arms and withhold his embrace? No.
Demand an explanation? No. No. NO!
When he finally recognizes his son coming home, he is OVERCOME WITH JOY!
“My son has come home. Let’s grill some steaks…” (or tacos in our case)
So, it’s a parable. Is it true? I don’t know. Do I care? No. All I know is that it’s the story of a parent. Standing. Watching. Longing. Pounding heart. Welling eyes. Anxious, ringing hands. And a hopeful spirit.
Dads/moms have been standing and watching for centuries. And we will continue. But the greatest, most perfect Father of all time stands and watches for us. He watches us go. And He watches for us to come back. And He is overcome with joy. Just like me.