On a sunny afternoon, I was in my bedroom. I could hear my mom in the kitchen cooking dinner. I was maybe six or seven, sulking and crying and pouting as hard as I could. Face down in my covers, hot tears soaking everything.
I remember being so focused and indignant, but I can’t for the life of me remember what I was upset about. Truthfully, I remember doing this a lot. I was a brat. A smart-mouthed, always-right, always-had-the-last-word brat. My mom, on the other hand, was gracious. So kind and gentle. I remember she would let me cry through my frustration, give me time alone with my injured pride, and then she would come to check on me.
I could always hear her, padding lightly up the stairs and down the hall to my room. I knew she was coming to comfort me and make up. Hearing her approach I was conflicted- I could calm down and apologize, let her hug me and stroke my hair. Or I could make her suffer a little longer. Feed my pride and withhold any closure. Refuse to “lose.” When I heard her quietly open my door and peek inside, I always did the same thing. I turned my back to the door and pretended to be asleep. I wanted her hugs, her gentle words, but more than that, I wanted to be right. I did not want to feel like I might need to be vulnerable or claim responsibility. So I closed my eyes, listened intently, and was smugly satisfied when she would walk away.
Fast forward to five years later. I couldn’t hear my mom in the kitchen anymore. I was still a brat, I still hated to lose. Still crying alone in my room. But now, I was crying because of how stupid I was. How awful I had been. I was crying because I would not have the chance in this life to say sorry or make it right.
Reconciliation is hard. Maybe the hardest thing. It can seem absolutely impossible to take that first step towards healing a relationship with another person. Even if we want to take that first, terrifying step, we don’t know how our gesture will be received. But what if you want to reconcile to God? What is holding you back? Is shame telling you that God doesn’t even want you? Or is it your pride telling you that God is the one who’s wrong?
If you look to the Bible, the first story about reconciliation that usually comes to mind is that of the Prodigal Son. If you haven’t read it in a while, it’s in Luke 15:11 Luke 15:11And he said, A certain man had two sons:
American King James Version×. Jesus’ parable is meant to show us that God is always our loving Father who always always always wants us back, even when we’ve been unthinkably terrible. It’s a touching and tender story.
The second story that comes to my mind is from Samuel 14, and I read it again recently. It’s the tragic story of David and Absalom; another father and son. They have been separated by violence, guilt, and betrayal. Absalom has lived away for 3 years, afraid of retribution. Finally, David calls for Absalom to come home, but will not allow his son to be in his presence. Absalom craves his father’s love and attention, but David will not forgive his son. A wise woman counsels King David with these words,
“All of us must die eventually. Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God does not just sweep life away; instead, he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him.”
Unlike God the Father, we are subject to hostility and stubbornness. We let guilt and shame prevent us from seeking forgiveness. But if you are wrestling with the notion that God doesn’t want you, you can be assured that he does. He is not a father like David—unforgiving and uninvolved. Like my mother, and like the father of Jesus’ parable, God is full of grace and rich in mercy.
Human life is precious because it is fleeting. Relationships are precious; more precious than pride. And no relationship is more important, more transformational, more fulfilling, than our relationship with our Father. What has God been doing in your life to bring you back to him? On this day of Atonement, be reconciled to your Father. This time when he reaches for you, don’t turn away.
Other Scriptures to read and consider:
Romans 12:9-21 Romans 12:9-21 9 Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; hold to that which is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another; 11 Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; 12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; 13 Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. 14 Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. 15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. 16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. 17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. 18 If it be possible, as much as lies in you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place to wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, said the Lord. 20 Therefore if your enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing you shall heap coals of fire on his head. 21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
American King James Version×