Winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come… (Song of Songs 2:11)
I closed my eyes one Sunday morning while we worshipped. In my mind, I saw a picture of me holding out a ring. It wasn’t a huge ring. Smaller than a hoola-hoop, but larger than a bicycle rim.
I didn’t know what the ring was or why I held it in front of me. As soon as I did, the Lord jumped into the ring. It shattered all around with the enormity of Him.
All my insides leaped. “Lord, come and burst my expectations! Break through my capacity with the largeness of You!”
But really… How does that happen?
A ring can represent a lot of things. It can be a sign of covenant or commitment. It can be a symbol of authority, like a signet ring in the hands of a king. It can even be a circumference of influence, lined out with careful boundaries.
A loving father gave his son, the prodigal, a ring. The son had wasted his inheritance and headed home in disgrace. He wasn’t coming back as a son. In his heart, he came as an indentured servant to pay his debt.
He faced Kezazah, a ceremonial banishment. It’s translated, the cutting off. A clay pot filled with burnt beans was broken at the feet of the one who had strayed. It represented a unified boot out of the community. No business, no friendships, and ostracized in every way.
But someone jumped into the middle of that ring.
His dad had been watching, waiting for his son to return. When the familiar gait of his youngest appeared over a ridge, he ran to him without hesitation. Not the dignified lope of a middle-aged pillar of the community. But a sweaty, robe-lifted over the legs, sleeves-flapping in the wind kind of sprint.
When they met face to face, he kissed his son over and over. Not the Aunt Dorothy peck on the cheek. These were kisses and tears all jumbled up and spilling over in love without words.
Daddy prepared his servants ahead of time. They covered the stinky son with his best robe. They slipped shoes over calloused, road-weary, bleeding feet. Shoes for a son, not a slave. The signet ring slipped on his hand guaranteed he could come home and make a living.
There would be no Kezazah. Daddy made sure of that.
Humility flows out of a generous heart. It flows out of love. The orphan can’t afford to forgive, can’t afford humility. It costs more than he has.
The prodigal’s daddy had a resource bigger than his own. It was okay to hike up his robe and run like an aging track star amid the aghast frowns of neighbors who wondered what happened to their friend.
Love happened, that’s what.
Love so generous, it became an indelible picture on the heart of his son.
That’s how my circle is expanded. The love of my Father runs up and jumps in my arms. He explodes my self-contained limitations. He ruins my careful excuses and justifications. He embraces the filth of my misplaced affections and soaks me in His fragrance.
This love is so engrafted I don’t have to dip into orphan resources again. I run with abandon and discover that limitless love runs faster toward me than I can to it.
So much more than I expected. So much sweeter.
The winter is past. Do I dare believe it?
I’m watching for Him. Expecting Him in unexpected ways, extravagant, unafraid of my doubts and undeterred by my messes.
He’s coming – sooner than I think.