April 21 – by Pastor Kevin Van Wyhe
Over the past 18 years, I have been blessed to see my daughter Katie, nearly every day. The exchange, “I love you more! – No, I love you more!” has come to embody the deep feeling of care and love shared between us. Last fall, after she left for college, a new phrase was added. This simple verbal collection created a perfect trifecta of words that demonstrated our feelings toward each other in her absence, “I MISS YOU”.
“I Miss You” is actually a way of saying: “I wish you were here! I don’t like being apart! I can’t wait till we are together again!” When we care deeply for someone else and they are not with us, it is common to share this expression of feelings.
Just last week, while bringing groceries to my parents on their back porch, these words came out unexpectedly as we were leaving. Why did I say that? After all, here they were right in front of me. We were not talking over a phone or on a video chat. No, they were only 6 feet away, and yet those words slipped out.
There is a term used to describe why so many of us are missing each other. It is a phrase that I am sure most of us were unfamiliar with until just over a month ago. “Social distancing”.
You can’t go anywhere right now without the reminder to maintain our 6 feet of separation. Marks on the floor in the grocery store, barriers set out, and signs put up. It is everywhere. We can’t shake hands. We can’t eat with friends. We can’t visit each other in our homes. We can’t worship together. It feels like the list of “We Cant’s” has become enormous.
I think, for me, the worst is we can’t give each other a hug. After leaving my parent’s home, I realized why I said, “I miss you!” It was because we couldn’t share the intimacy and expression of love that comes from a simple hug.
Social Distancing is a challenge for all of us going forward. Yet one of the biggest challenges we face in our spiritual lives is how to overcome our Spiritual Distancing problem with God and return to or begin an intimate relationship with Him.
I know in my own life, I can think of times when I felt very much outside of that 6-foot circle with God. I could see God and I knew he was there, but I did not feel close with Him. My prayer life and my alone time with Him felt empty and distant. In those times, I longed to feel close to Him once again but finding the solution to bridging the distance often seemed beyond my grasp.
Try to look at it from God’s perspective. How much more does He experience that same feeling of “I Miss You”, but at an infinitely greater degree?
When sin came into the world we were instantly separated from Him. Thankfully His Love for us and desire to be close to us was so great that He came up with the “fix” through His son, Jesus.
In Luke 15 we read the parable of the lost or prodigal son. It is a familiar story that Jesus told to ultimately show us how much our heavenly father loves us even when we are like the son who ran away and took advantage of his father. In this story, Jesus describes the younger of two sons taking his inheritance and leaving his father and home to pursue worldly pleasure. When he runs out of money and finds himself destitute and in despair, he decides to return home and plead for grace and mercy from his father. Then Jesus gives us a window into God’s great love and how much He misses us when we are not in relationship with Him. Here in verse 20 we find one of the most beautiful pictures of God’s love.
“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.”
This father, who had every right to be mad at his son, reacts in a way that seems contradictory to what you would expect. You would expect him to be hurt, angry and maybe not even allow his son back home. Instead, we see the exact opposite, a picture of a father who missed his son greatly and was waiting anxiously for the moment that he would return. A father who loved his child so much that he would forgive and look past anything just to have his son home again.
“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.”
It was like he was sitting on the front porch staring at the end of the driveway, waiting. He surely was experiencing the feeling of deeply missing his son. Then the moment came when he saw his son, he could not contain himself. He instinctively got up and ran to him putting all the past behind. As soon as he reached his son the reaction the father gives is second to none. He “threw his arms around him and kissed him.” He broke through the 6-foot circle of intimacy and embraced and kissed his son.
God longs for us to be intimate with him; to be in a relationship that is personal and close.
He has fixed the Spiritual Distancing Problem that so many of us have.
He sent his Son and simply believing in Him we will be embraced by our heavenly father just like in the story of the Lost son.
We have nothing to fear. No matter what we have done, God loves us, forgives us and accepts us. God is anxiously waiting for us to turn our faces toward him. He wants more than anything, to be close to us. With each moment we are apart from Him, He misses us more.
What a comfort to know that the moment we turn our face back to God or to Him for the first time, He is not slow in welcoming us. He doesn’t wait for us to come to Him, He meets us where we are and anxiously embraces us and wastes no time in showing us how great His love for us is.
If you are experiencing a Spiritual Distancing with God, if you feel like He is outside your 6 foot circle, turn to Him today.
He truly misses you and wants to be in a close relationship with you and is ready to meet you wherever you are at.
Father, I want more than anything to be close to you. To feel your arms around me. I am sorry for all the times I have been focused on things other than you. I am sorry for the many ways I have hurt and let you down. Please meet me where I am at today and show me the way to you. I can’t do it on my own. I need you in my life today and always. Thank you for loving me so much that you sent your Son to die for me.