Today’s WAWA was purely running focused so it’s only appropriate that I tell you a story that involves “running”. Now, when I tell you this story, you’re probably going to recognize it by another title. But for the sake of today’s devotional, I’m going to follow the storyline as it was told for many years in the ancient Middle Eastern Church….the story of “The Running Father” which comes to us in Luke, Chapter 15.
In modern times, we know this parable as that of the Prodigal Son. You are familiar with the story as told by Jesus. A family has two sons and one goes away to a foreign land and squanders away all his share of his inheritance. He shamefully returns to his family, thinking he would only be fit to eat with the hogs in the field. However, his father opens his arms to his long-lost son. All is forgiven.
That’s the modern version of our story.
Now, let me tell you the significance of the Middle Eastern version, which focuses more on the role of the father….and not on the son.
I said earlier that this would be a running story. Back in those days, men never ran anywhere. Never ever! There were a couple reasons for this. First, running was said to be “child’s play” so adults would not run as to be ridiculed as children and never taken seriously. Secondly, men wore long tunics (or robes) back in those days, so if they were to run, they’d have to pull up on the tunic, expose their legs, in order to develop any sort of stride. At any rate, the exposing of one’s legs, in those times, was considered humiliating and disgraceful.
The father sees his son from a very long way away, and picks up a run to meet him. Some scholars believe the father ran in order to meet his son before he entered the town. Jewish tradition had it that if a family member lost his family’s wealth in a foreign land, that the town would surround him, break a clay pot near his feet, thus symbolizing that he was cut off from his family and his town.
So, the father is running to get to his son in hopes that he would be spared from the Jewish customs. He not only ran to get ahead of the other villagers, but he ran to stay ahead of justice and what was widely considered to be reasonable and fair. Instead, the father took the shame upon his own shoulders, sparing his son any humiliation.
How many times have we looked at this story from the eyes of the prodigal son? Today, I’d ask you to consider the parable from the viewpoint of the running father. Just as the father in this story puts everything aside to gather his son up in his arms, kiss him on the cheek, and call for a banquet in his honor, our Heavenly Father would willingly do the same for us.
The next time you think there’s no turning back to our Father in heaven, remember that He too will run to us, scoop us up in His arms, and welcome us home when we return from going astray.