Whatever You’ve Done… Just Show Up

 Let’s say you’ve done everything wrong.

  • Demanded money from people who love you.
  • Turned your back on familiar for the lure of exotic.
  • Flirted with vice and grabbed forbidden pleasure.
  • Bought lots of stuff and tried to buy friendship.
  • Eating, drinking, partying.

All along thinking that maybe this will finally fill the hole. The one in your heart that longs for more.

But it never does.

Until that day you turn around—alone, filthy, starving, and totally lost. And all you can think about is that your father’s home is looking pretty good about now. But returning is out of the question. You are defeated, shamed, dirty, broke, outcast.

Not the sort of homecoming you once imagined.

But you have nothing. And nothing to lose. So you start the journey with faltering steps. Drawing closer to familiar terrain, you slow down.

Your father is running toward you.  And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.” Luke 15:20 A “compassionate” father.

This is a word derived from two Latin roots: cum (with) and pati (to suffer). To show compassion means actually entering into someone’s struggle and coming alongside his or her pain—to “suffer with.”

The word used here in New Testament Greek is splagchnizomai, literally defined as “to be moved in the inward parts.” Today we believe the physical seat of our emotions is the heart or brain, but the Greeks believed that all emotions were centered in the splagchnas—heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys.

This father is experiencing the deepest of feelings in the deepest of places.

Rembrandt’s painting The Return of the Prodigal Son hangs in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia. Upon seeing it for the first time, Henri Nouwen said: “My intense response to the father’s embrace of his son told me that I was desperately searching for that inner place where I too could be held as safely as the young man in the painting. With his son safe within his outstretched arms, the father’s expression seems to say . . . , “I am not going to ask you any questions. Wherever you have gone, whatever you have done, and whatever people say about you, you’re my beloved child. I hold you safe in my embrace. I hug you. I gather you under my wings. You can come home to me.” 

Are you ready to come home to the community of faith?

If so, look no further than your own compassionate heavenly Father, who is ready even at this moment to welcome you.

Why do you think Jesus told the parable of the prodigal son?To make it clear that a compassionate God joyously welcomes repentant sinners into His house.

“What a word of encouragement, consolation and comfort! We don’t have to sift our hearts and analyze our intentions before returning home. Abba just wants us to show up. We don’t have to be perfect or even very good before God will accept us.” (Brennan Manning)


under the mercy, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell – adapted from Ordinary Graces (Abingdon Press)


  1. maggierowe on October 18, 2017 at 8:54 am

    We have a near-perfect copy of Rembrandt’s painting in our church foyer painted by a Romanian immigrant who was a member. Every time I look at it I think of the passionate papa who, more than the prodigal son, truly is at the heart of this story. Thanks for this very fine reflection, Cindy.

  2. sharongamble on October 18, 2017 at 10:05 am

    I loved learning that compassion means to “suffer with” — it’s so enriched my understanding of that word. Thank you!!

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