Once upon a time there was a father who had a son. This son was very precious to the father. Before he was born, the father counted the days till his birth. The father imagined all the days they would spend together laughing, playing, walking along the fields and parks. The father imagined the long talks they would have about life as the son grew up and would have the questions according to his age. The father dreamed about the time that his son would grow into a man and resemble all that the father hoped and dreamed for him.
The father rejoiced when he saw his son born. There was not a soul he didn’t tell about his wonderful birth and how excited and blessed he was to have the best looking son. As he looked into his child’s eyes, he could see his future: full of hope and dreams yet to be fulfilled. He saw the hardship that would shape his son and give him the fortitude to navigate life. He saw in that precious bundle of joy a gift of relationship that is beyond words. He watched his son grow and walk his first step, pick up his first leaf, question his first “why” about the things around him. The father enjoyed the fixed eyes of his son to himself as the son trusted his father with every step, every emotion of growing up. The father knew that if the son trusted him, the son would grow big and strong and wise and full of life.
The father knew there were other sons from other fathers, and hoped that his son would play and share their experiences with these other sons so they could share in the love that the father and son had for one another. But the father hoped that the son would not learn the ways of the other sons, and want to be like them. His hope was that the son would show the other sons about their relationship. The father trusted the son and the son trusted the father.
Every day, the father missed the son the moment the son went off to play with the other sons. Their relationship was special and he looked forward anticipating the moment of his return. But as time grew on, the son would stay longer and longer… The father was always there, at the same place and same time to pick up the son from his time with the other sons, but the son came back later and later… Still the father waited.
When the son returned, the son would share about all their adventures. About the hills and valleys they would run and play in, about the shells and the sand they would find by the sea, and about the conversations they would have together as sons growing up with different fathers. Comparing notes and seeing similarities. The son would talk to the father about the differences in the sons. The son would climb up into the father’s arms and they would talk for hours about the similarities and differences. The son would ask questions and the father would explain in ways he hope would calm the curiosity of the son to seek after the other sons. But in his love, the father wanted his son to learn to make wise decisions. He wanted to give him the freedom to choose to keep in the guidance and protection that he had or to venture out to see the other side and then to return to his home. The son would stay longer and longer… Still the father waited.
One day while the father waited for his son to return, the sun set and darkness came. The son had never stayed out so long, and the father began to worry. He trusted his son, but knew that the son was more and more curious about the others sons and their fathers. As the stars began to appear brighter and brighter, the father continued to wait for the son. He began to worry for his safety. He wondered if he should stay that their meeting place or should he go and look for his son…
Not after a long time, and just before the father decided to go and find the son, another son from a different father appeared. This made the father curious as to why he came. The son explained that his son, the father’s son really intrigued him regarding their relationship. “You see” said the son, “my father and I don’t love each other like you and your son do. He told me that this is where you meet him, so I came to meet you.”
The father could see that this son wanted and needed a father’s love. Simple to the father, because his son was simple to love. But curious to the father because he did not understand why this son did not receive the same type of love from his father. Why wouldn’t a father love his son? And so, with his son still heavy on his heart, the father began to love this son as his own. They played, they hiked and had long father-son talks, but… there was a hole in the father’s heart that only the son, his son could fulfill. The father hoped and dreamed that one day, he would see his son again, and that his son would return safe. And even if he was a bit torn and tattered from all the adventures with the other sons, the father knew he could patch him up and return him to their beloved relationship. Every night, at the same time, the father would go and wait at the meeting place for his son. And every night the father waited and waited…
The other son began to wait as well, for all he heard about the son, he wanted to have him as a brother. He remembered the times when they were young and played together, and deep down inside he regretted all the stories he made up about how wonderful his life was with his father. Maybe this made the son jealous and wanted to have what the other son never really had. Maybe the son could remember the relationship that he is now enjoying with his father and could return and be a family. Maybe, just maybe….
Time passed and still no sight of his beloved son. As the father waited at the meeting place, his new son brought more friends. As they played and grew together, they enjoyed their relationship with the father. They would listen to him tell stories around the campfires or when they went on hikes together in the forest thick with the smell of pine and the crackling of the leaves on the forest bed. They would ask questions about life, and it seemed that the father always had the answer to every problem a boy would encounter as he grew up. They laughed together, they played together, and were there when one of the boys would cry or get hurt because of the life and its adventures. But they could always see the pain deep inside the father of the loss of his son. Where is he, what is he doing? When will he return to me so that we can play and talk and share life with our new friends. “Maybe we could become his real sons so he would forget his son and the pain of his loss.” They did not completely understand from the father’s point of view how hurt he was not to have his son with them. No one can replace another…and still the father waited.
The father had so much to give, to share. He wanted to show them all the different trees, and the different animals and how each one needs each other to survive. He wanted to share with them how he discovered the meaning of life and how his life became more meaningful when they came. He loved giving and sharing and receiving from the boys as they expressed their love and gratitude for the father taking them in. They had all come from different fathers and had seen things and done things that boys just shouldn’t do or see. And, at times it was hard to decipher how they were before to how they are now, full of love in the father’s care. They had hoped one day to see their father again and have a life they are experiencing now, but the thought of leaving their new life was unbearable to imagine.
Suddenly, they began to think about the son, the one who they played with in the first place. The father’s son. They wondered why he was not there. The first son that came to the meeting place and talked about what he saw in the father’s son remembered the father waiting there and the meeting place night after night waiting for his beloved son to return. He recalled how the father would hire the shepherds passing through to find his son so that if the son returned to the meeting place, the father would be there all the while someone else went looking for his beloved son. This two-fold search gave the father hope that the son would return home and be with the father again. The first son came to the father and suggested that he and his friends would help look for the son. If they found him, they could tell him of all the stories that they did together with the father and maybe the son would be jealous and return home with them. Reluctantly, the father agreed. He was in fear that his new friends, his new adopted sons would leave as well, and hoped that the memories they created together would be enough to return them back home. The father ached for the son, and was willing to give up all that he had for his return. It’s been a long time, years in fact, would the son still remember the father?
The father waited and waited. Now all of his new friends were searching for his lost son. Slowly, they would return two by two, but this time with more friends. “Father, we found them along the way, and when we spoke of you and our relationship, they too wanted to come, but sadly, we could not find your son, can they stay as well and be a part of our family?” The father agreed with joy. He knew that in each of these boys he could impart to them what they never had, and maybe that would appease his aching heart for his son.
So each day, more would return with more friends, and together they would play, and laugh and live life that only a father and son could enjoy.
And then off in the distance, the father could see a familiar face…
“I loved my father, loved our time and relationship together, but just had to explore what was out there.” “The other sons spoke of adventures I had yet to know and it sounded exciting. I am sure the father would have let me go”. But the son got lost in his adventures. Every turn on the road turned into another adventure until the son was mortifyingly lost. His hunt for adventure left him lost and alone and he missed his father greatly. But instead of retracing his steps or calling out for his father who seemed to be always there, he continued down the path leading to nowhere. Its as if these new thoughts came into his head that he did not need his father to help him return home, if he just kept going, he could do this by himself.
Hours turned into days, and days weeks, and it seemed he was going nowhere fast. But the son pursued the path, and his heart grew dark and cold. Gone were the days of sunshine and laughter, instead fear and anger filled his heart. He was missing his father, but angry at himself. Later his anger grew to blaming his father. “How could he let me go, he should have stopped me from playing with other sons. It is his fault that I am here”. And because of this, the son stayed away longer and longer. The things that used to make him laugh were gone, and so was his joy. His wandering became life and the love that he had was all but a dream of days gone by. A faint memory of the past.
As the son was sitting by a ledge of rocks, he heard 2 sons passing by. They were speaking of the life they have laughing and playing with other sons and a father whose character sounded distinctly familiar. The son was tired and worn out, but his ears gave him hope of the past, and the memories of his father came flooding back. As if he could hear his father’s heart calling him home. He did not want to let the boys know that he was around, so he followed them at a great distance, never losing sight of them. He wondered if this was his same father that they were speaking about or was there another…he was so confused, but his heart was glued to their conversation. They spoke about the father’s love and care, his wisdom and direction, his joy and his peace.
“Could this be my father…”?
As the sons arrived back home to share the sad news that they did not find the father’s son, something caught the father’s eye: a flash of a shirt he had once seen so many years ago. Could this be? Has my son returned? The father stared in disbelief. His eyes registered, but his heart was slow in the pick-up of the truth. For years he waited for the son’s return, but this was not his boy as he had left him that warm summer morning, this was a man, tattered and torn, with life written across his face, and tears streaming down his cheeks. It was a man that had seen the worst of life, beaten and bruised with all that the world had to give, and a heart shattered. It was his son! Through all the muck and matter of life, he could see the faintness of life in his son’s eyes.
With tears in his eyes and a broken heart, the son was explaining how these two boys led him home. Once again, the father, the son and now the other sons were at home in the father’s care. Once again, the father could love and care for his sons, all of them. And slowly, delicately, his son, the joy of his heart became whole once again.
I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, “Here I am, here I am,” to a nation that was not called by my name. – Isaiah 65:1
I will bring forth offspring from Jacob, and from Judah possessors of my mountains; my chosen shall possess it, and my servants shall dwell there. – Isaiah 65:9