I wonder when it came to an end.
I can’t remember if I was seven or eight or even older, but at some point I stopped giving things to my mom to put on the fridge. I bet she was disappointed. We weren’t much of a fridge family. I don’t remember there ever being a lot up there. We had a set of alphabet letters I used to love playing with and I know I ruined many a surface around the house with my stickers, but mostly the refrigerator was used for utilitarian purposes – reminder notes, commonly used phone numbers, things like that. Still I remember specifically this drawing I did my mom put on the refrigerator. It was a drawing of the Mach 5 that I did for my dad’s birthday. I must have been about five at the time. At that age, I used to love drawing cars of all kinds – any vehicle really. I’d invent my own tanks, my own submarines, my own rocket ships, but my inspiration for all of them was the Mach 5. If you don’t know, the Mach 5 was from a Japanese anime called Mach GOGOGO, but here we called it Speed Racer. I used to love that show. I’d watch it all the time. And at that age, I did my best to make drawings of it. So naturally, for my dad’s birthday, he’d want a picture of the Mach 5, right? In my head, it was the thing I loved drawing the most, and I loved my dad, so it only made sense to draw him a picture of that for his birthday. My mom kept it for me and put it in my memory book.
At some point, I stopped making drawings for my parents.
I don’t know why in particular. Maybe I thought it was kids’ stuff. Or maybe my thoughts were just focused on other things. And even though they understood, I think I forgot how important they were to who I am today. We do the same thing to God. We forget him. And if we’re honest, many of us do it pretty regularly. In the day-to-day bustle of our lives, it’s easy to put God on the back burner. But God misses us. God wants us to have a deep and abiding relationship with him. And when we turn away, even though he understands, God hopes we will one day turn around and come home. Jesus told the story of the Prodigal Son to his disciples to illustrate this point.
Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “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. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
God is waiting for you!
How incredible is that? What an amazing feeling it is to know that no matter how far we’ve gone, no matter what we have done, God is waiting for you to come home. And when you do, he will celebrate your return! I’m sure the son who came back was not expecting a banquet. In fact, I imagine he was expecting quite the opposite. He was prepared to grovel and beg for forgiveness. He probably assumed his father would be likely to reject him, and why wouldn’t he? The son had treated his father with utter contempt and disrespect, demanding his inheritance even before his father had died. He was basically saying to his dad, “I wish you were dead, then I could live the life I want to live!” How self-centered would you have to be to do something like that? So the son knew to return home would be more than just swallowing his pride. He even prepared a speech to say when he came back, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But he was DESPERATE. His life was so bad he wished he was eating the food of pigs. That he was reduced to being a servant of pigs would have alone been seen as ghastly to the Jewish people hearing this story. After all pigs were unclean animals. But to be reduced to wishing for food good enough for pigs? It was humiliation piled on top of humiliation. He had to go back and just hope for forgiveness. But what did his father do instead? He gave him a celebration! He killed the best calf and had a big party! To come home to that kind of reception must have been beyond the son’s wildest dreams.
Whenever one of God’s children comes home, he celebrates.
And we are all God’s children. We are all his creation. So no matter how far any of us strays from the path, he is just so happy you’re back. It’s like the story of the lost sheep. The shepherd doesn’t spend time nurturing the 99. They are happy and content and being well fed. They are safe because they have each other. So the shepherd goes after the 1 who is lost and astray and does everything he can to bring him home. God keeps reaching out to us through the people in our lives around us. Through your boyfriend or girlfriend who asks you to go to church. Through your grandmother who offers to say a prayer for you. Through that little flyer in the mail that says, “Come visit us!” God keep reaching out hoping one day you’ll respond. And he is patient. So patient he is willing to wait as long as it takes to bring people home. We read that in Peter’s second letter to the church where is responding to some people who are anxious for Jesus’ return as prophesied. And he tells them, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:8-9).” That’s how important you are to God. He’ll hold the bus just for you. He’ll keep the doors open on the train just for you. If you’ve ever been on a subway or rapid transit system, you know how important that is. You could be literally just a few seconds away from getting on board, but there is no mercy on the rapid transit system. Or if you’ve ever raced to the elevator and someone holds it open for you. You know they could have gone. It would have saved them some time. But instead they waited for you. So does God. Because it is more important to God to have you come home than it is to get there a little bit quicker.
You are here reading this now.
So obviously God is important to you. But how often during the week do we spend time with God? Most of us probably struggle with that to some extent. We are busy. Working, trying to pay the bills, running around with the kids. It probably feels like there is no time left for God in our busy, busy schedule. But what I’m saying is you should MAKE time for God. And not just because it will make God happy (because it will), but because we all need God more than we like to admit. That’s the flip side to the story. It’s more than “come back to God because it will make him happy.” It’s “come back to God because without him you’ll mess things up and pretty soon you’ll be wishing you had a pig trough to eat from.” God gives us that peace that passes all understanding. God gives us the plug to fill the giant spiritual hole in our lives. All we need to do is come home to receive it. God shouldn’t be someone you “make time for.” God should be the one indispensible part of your life that you ALWAYS have time for. It’s everything else that needs to make room for God.
We are a fridge family.
Ever since Emma was little, we put stuff up on the refrigerator. Drawings, pictures, awards, report cards – you name it and it went up on the fridge. We kept every single ornament Emma made since she was in kindergarten and those go up on the Christmas tree every year, too. Not just because they are meaningful to us (which they are) but because I hope she knows that no matter where she is or what she is doing I love her and I’m proud of her. She is my child. And she always has a place to come home to as long as I’m around. God feels that way about all of us. He loves us so much he doesn’t care how far away we are or what we are doing. He wants us to know there is always a place to come home to. Make time in your life for what is truly important – faith, family, and friends. Don’t neglect those things just because something seems more urgent. I think you’ll find that when you make time for what’s really important, your life will go much better than if you don’t. If you don’t carve out time for those things, you’ll find how easily they slip away when in truth they are the most important parts of who you are. I may not draw pictures for my parents very much, but I still have a way to put something up on their wall. Every year, we create a family calendar with pictures and words that we send to both my parents and Cassie’s mom. It’s my own small way of taking time out to let them know, even though we aren’t around as much, they are still so very important to us. Make sure you take time out to let God know he is still in your heart, too. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.