Last weekend, we had a little family escape to Branson, Missouri. It is spring break around here, and Branson is a popular destination from our home in the Oklahoma City area.
My daughter had planned a girls’ trip with a friend from church, but she needed us to drive her to Branson—about a five hour drive. We mentioned it to my parents, and before long the “girls’ trip” included us, my parents, my brother and his family, my sister, my oldest son, and his girlfriend.
Can I just say it was a much needed break from Covid and the pull of everyday life?
While there are many, many attractions in Branson to fill time in Branson, there was really only one item on our list:
Seeing Jesus at the Sight and Sound Theater
And it did not disappoint.
If you have never been to a Sight and Sound Theater, it is a pretty incredible experience. They bring Bible stories to life using live animals, incredible special effects, and great scripts. I have personally seen productions of Noah and Samson in the past, and we had been planning to go see Jesus. So when the opportunity arose, it was a no-brainer.
The story starts with Jesus calling His first disciples, but stories of His childhood are interwoven skillfully throughout the play. Watching the story of Jesus come to life before your eyes is a moving experience.
One of my favorite scenes was the telling of the Prodigal son.
Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
“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. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
“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! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 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. Luke 15:11-20
To see the son slopping the pigs.
To watch the Father as goes out to watch for his son every single day.
To see the pain in the Father’s face as his son walks away.
To hear the joy in the Father’s voice when he sees his son coming home, humbled, hurting, begging for forgiveness.
And to know that our Heavenly Father does the same for every one of His sheep who wanders away.
As I watched the scene unfold before my eyes, I found myself praying for those I love who are struggling with their faith, who struggle with whether the Father truly loves them. I prayed that they would see the Father eagerly anticipating their return, that they would see the love in His eyes as He longs to see them come home. I prayed they would find the love the Father extends, even as we sow our wild oats.
What about you? Where are you in relation to the Father?
Are you the older son, always present but your heart hardened because little brother gets the attention?
Are you the son who chose to walk away and now you find yourself mucking pigs, alone, destitute, wondering how you ended up in the pig pen?
Maybe you are like the Father, watching and waiting every day for someone you love to come home, wondering when God is going to move in his heart and bring him to his senses.
No matter where you are in the story, our Heavenly Father looks out with love.
Love that led Him to give His one and only son.
A love that nailed His son to the cross.
A love that is so powerful it raised Him from the dead.
A love that changes lives.
Wherever you are, He is waiting with outstretched arms to welcome you home.