The Father’s Embrace

We started reading Henri Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son this week during formation. The book shares a reflection of Rembrandt’s painting, depicting the parable of the prodigal son. The book is divided into three sections, with a reflection on the perspective of the younger son, the older son, and the father. Thus far, I have read the parts of the younger and older sons, and in both sections, I have found many parts to be applicable to my life. As we have discussed the book this week, the question that comes up a lot is, “What does the Father’s embrace look like, and how do I get to that embrace?” I have been thinking a lot about these questions and pondering them all week. In my prayer this week, I keep getting the image of a father rocking a baby. I really feel like He is just calling me to be a child and allow myself to be held in His arms. I guess I am considered an adult now, so this idea of me, a supposedly grown young woman, being a baby or a small child in the eyes of God is hard for me to grasp. It doesn’t completely make sense to me, but I don’t think it is supposed to. But there is just something comforting in allowing yourself to become a child again and being held and rocked. As I have continued to have this image, I just feel like I am entering into that embrace which we have constantly talked about this week.

Many times, I feel very much like the older son who stays at home, yet doesn’t fully take advantage of everything his father has to offer him. In the parable, the father tells the older son: “My son, you are with me always, and all I have is yours.” So I am just trying to enter fully into what the Father has to offer me. So often, in my own humanness, I feel like there has to be a good reason for me to receive His love. I, although I know this is untrue, think that I don’t deserve the love He has to offer. But we don’t have to earn the love of our Father. We don’t have to “deserve” it. He loves us always and no matter what, and He wants us to fully enter into His embrace. I have been trying to be open to receiving that embrace, to taking full advantage of all the Father has to offer me. And in doing so, I am trying to remember that image of being a child. I think that for children it is easy to be open to receiving love. They don’t need to understand why their parents or other people love them. They just innocently accept the love offered to them, which is why we are called to be childlike in our faith. In the same way as a child, we are called to openly accept the love of the Father without question or hesitation.

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