He waits. Leaning from the window, he watches the road with a gaze that pierces through the dust to search the distance. One day, very soon, it will be his child stumbling along there, and he will be the first to see.
He waits. He bears the unkindness of time and distance, knowing that they are part of the process, part of the story. Some children need to leave home in order to truly come home. It is in the pain of the journey that they learn to see what has always been there for them in their Father’s heart: the love that cannot be measured or contained, the mercy that can never be deserved. It was always there, but only eyes washed with many tears learn to see it clearly.
He waits. All the supplies for the banquet are ready, and the fatted calf is penned apart. The ovens are heated and the table is set. All he is waiting for is the coming child.
He waits. The seasons do not dim his eyes or erode his patience. The time when his child arrives will be the right time, the perfect time. There will be so much joy that the pain of waiting will be forgotten and put aside, like a dream is put aside when you awake. And his joy and his child’s joy will be one and the same.
He waits. He knows that there is muttering in the background, raised eyebrows and dark looks. His love is a scandal, and the horrified gossip doesn’t go away. Shouldn’t love be only for the deserving? Shouldn’t there be a boundary, a limit, a line drawn in the sand? Shouldn’t the ones who break the rules, who dare to walk away, have to suffer? Shouldn’t the father’s bounty be reserved for those who work in the Father’s house? He shakes his head sadly. Don’t they know that it is sons, not slaves, to whom the inheritance is given? It is the tie of blood that holds his children to his heart, they were born to be his, and his love will never leave them.
He waits. Yes, there are other things he does, for his house must be kept ready and prosperous, but that is only the means to an end. His child is the passion of his heart.
He waits. And one day it happens, a stumbling speck appears in the distance, so hunched and broken that only the eyes of love could hope to recognise the Father’s child. Now, surmises the watching household, it is time for the Father to stand upon his dignity and demonstrate his authority. But the Father cares nothing for that, only for his child. He doesn’t wait for the struggling one to come and humiliate himself. Instead, caring nothing for his own humiliation, he gathers up his robes and runs! He will wait for nothing more, no apologies or arguments, there is only one thing he wants, one thing he has been waiting for: to gather his lost child in his arms and bring the wanderer home. Nothing else. His wait is over.