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FIRST-PERSON: A father’s open arms

GOODLETTSVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–I love this time of year. The days are long and the evenings are warm and peaceful.

I can hardly get my children to come in at dusk from play. Watching them enjoy summer takes me back to the warm summer days when I use to play with my childhood friends in the neighborhood. Each day was a new adventure. We played from yard to yard as if the day would never end.

Yet at sunset, one by one we would answer the call of our parents to come home. My dad would whistle. No matter how far my journey carried me from home, my father knew that the sound of his whistle could be heard, recognized and obeyed.

Responding to his call, I would jump on my bike and head for home. As my house came into view, my dad could be seen standing on the front porch waving me home. I didn’t realize it then, but he didn’t have to wait for me. Dad could have called and then continued about his business. Instead, he displayed a father’s heart. Dad waited and watched until I was safely home. My arrival seemed to bring him joy. I knew this by the smile on his face, the twinkle in his eye and his open arms.

It reminds me of the story in the Bible about the lost sheep. Jesus was revealing the Father’s heart toward people by relating to them something close to their heart. He asked, “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?” (Luke 15:4, NKJ). Our heavenly Father most troubled about the one who has wandered far away and is lost. God calls to them because He knows that, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27, NKJ).

I’ll never forget when my son was 6 years old. The sun was starting to set and, like my dad, I stepped out onto the porch and called for him to come home. Nothing. I called again, but there was no sign of him. Frantically, his dad and I searched the neighborhood calling his name. We walked door-to-door asking if our son was there. Each time we were disappointed. Eventually, with flashlights in hand, our neighbors joined the search. When my husband phoned the police, I felt my body go numb. We were living out our worst nightmare — our son was lost.

Before the police arrived, a neighbor’s van, on the way home from a ballgame, pulled into our driveway curious about the crowd that had gathered on our front lawn. My husband met them at the car and began explaining that our son was missing. He was interrupted by a faint voice from the back of the van.

“I’m here dad,” our son said.

Moving slowly to the front of the car, our son was afraid his dad would be mad at him for going to the ball park without permission, especially since there was a search party and all. Yet, his dad wasn’t mad. In fact, he displayed a father’s heart. He grabbed his son and with arms of love held him tight.

“I’m so glad you’re home, son, I’m so glad your home,” he whispered in his ear with a joyful heart.

Perhaps you have wandered into a distant land, but you can hear the faint voice of God calling, “Come home!” Maybe you’re afraid that your heavenly Father will be mad. Instead, God says, “I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7).

You may feel as if you’re lost for good, but God knows where you are. You have not escaped His attention. The Father knows His children and calls them by name. Those who listen, follow and obey will find their way home and be welcomed with open arms. With a Father’s heart, God is waiting and watching from the front porch of heaven for your return. If you don’t know what to say to Him, use these words from a hymn written by William J. Kirkpatrick:

“[I’m] coming home, coming home … never more to roam. Open wide your arms of love … Lord, I’m coming home.”
Used by permission of Micca Campbell, assistant director of Certified Speakers, a division of Proverbs 31 Ministries, and a member of Parkway Baptist Church in Goodlettsville, Tenn., near Nashville.

    About the Author

  • Micca Campbell