But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.

On a cold Christmas Eve, when I was eighteen, my boyfriend of a year and a half surprised me with a diamond engagement ring and proposal. That ring signified love, hope for the future, and the promise of life with the man I loved.

We all know the story (parable) of the prodigal son. We see the forgiving father run to welcome his lost son home! Not only does he prepare a feast, but he gives him a robe, ring and shoes. This tells us that God is always concerned not just with our spiritual well-being but also with our physical well being. But these gifts to the lost son have a more significant meaning.

The signet ring was a seal to officially sign documents and represented a position of authority. It was as reliable as a signature, a seal of authenticity that branded a document. In a world where the majority of men were illiterate, the signet ring became their writing instrument. An instrument responsible for signing some of the most historical documents long ago. The ring signified the father’s high level of love for his son.

Our heavenly Father puts no condition on us when we have wandered and then return. He doesn’t hold back to see if we really mean it or have some ulterior motive. He doesn’t say, you can come home, but have to earn back my love, trust and respect. He opens his arms wide and lavishes love, mercy and compassion on us. He keeps no record of wrong, he doesn’t say you hurt me, now you must make restitution. No, our Father rejoices when we seek his forgiveness. Henri Nouwen describes it best saying “I realize that I am not used to the image of God throwing a big party. It seems to contradict the solemnity and seriousness I have always attached to God. But when I think about the ways in which Jesus describes God’s Kingdom, a joyful banquet is often at its center . . .”

God celebrates each wanderer upon their return. Can we have his same heart of forgiveness and will we open our arms wide to the prodigals we know and even some we don’t yet and offer them a special place in our family?

Deb HIll
Executive Assistant

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