The expression of a God who runs is what kick-started my meditation on the loving actions of God. In fact, it’s what I meditate on the most. Can you picture a God who runs? The Creator of the Universe running? Upon first inspection, it’s not very regal. To me, it’s a deep expression of love and romance. Little stirs my spirit more swiftly than God running toward me.
This example of the God who runs is beautifully described in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. I wonder if, because of this parable, the word “prodigal” has developed a negative connotation in the common language. After all, the story refers to a son who wastes away his inheritance. However, as I’ve studied and explored this parable over the years, it seems to me a story that is more about a prodigal father than son. The word prodigal implies giving in abundance, lavishly, or in extravagance. This aptly describes the father who lavishly loves his son. The father’s love is so full that he prematurely and freely gives his son an abundant inheritance. After his son wastes it away, the father not only welcomes his son home, but showers him with gifts and honor. What kind of a father is this who seemingly wastes his love on a rebellious, good for nothing son?
Early in my faith journey with Christ, a young man described God as One who lets go. He doesn’t lock people in a cage and demand their love. Instead, He let’s them go and waits for them to return. This is my story and could be why the parable of the prodigal father touches me deeply. It’s a story of a father who lets go and waits. The climax is in the run.
What was this father waiting for? An apology? A refund? No. He waited for the son he loved. Everyday, he waited and looked for his wandering offspring. Why? The father knew the son’s life was at stake. In the Hebrew culture at the time, such rebellious and squandering behavior was not just a crime against the family. It was a crime against the community and punishable by stoning. If the son were to return, he would face the consequence: death. So, the father waited.
One day, he saw the figure of a man in the distance and knew his son was returning home. I can see it now. It was a matter of life and death. So the father ran. He ran to embrace his son. No apologies. No explanations. Then, he clothed his son in the traditional, symbolic garments that identified him as a member of the family: robe, ring, sandals. Celebration ensued.
God runs. He also instructs us to run and to run with endurance the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12:1). Endurance in running comes from practice, as any runner will share. When I run, I set incremental goals for myself. My internal thought process is something like, “If I can just make it to the next light post. OK, made it. Now, if I can just make it to that big tree.” And so on. We have a promise in scripture that endurance for the spiritual race comes as we continually fix our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). Imagine my endurance to run when I see Jesus who “never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God. . .“ (Hebrews 12:1-3, MSG).
God runs to us. He also runs with us. In 1992, Dereck Redmond, the Olympian, experienced this first-hand. Maybe you know the story. Dereck was favored to win the 400-meter race. Half-way through, he fell to the ground in agonizing pain with a torn hamstring. But he didn’t give up. His eye was fixed on the prize. He was going to finish. His loving father ran to his side and carried him to the finish line. This image of love — a father running to his son — is seared in the depths of my spirit. It embodies who Father God is to me.
Click below to watch a father’s love in action.
When I picture Father God, I picture the God who runs. He ran to save my life. He asked nothing in return except to lavishly bestow me with the gifts that name me daughter. His daughter. He runs with me today. He helps me keep sight of where I’m going — that exhilarating finish in and with Him.