When I was a young boy, I used to pray sometimes and go to church every Sunday, usually with my mother, like a lot of kids. And I was happy. One of my grade school teachers called me Smiley Kiley. Why? Because I was with God.
But when I got to be about 15 years old, things started to change. I started to skip going to church, prayer didn’t show up at all. I had a lot of other things going on. I had a promising life ahead of me, plus sports and social life and working. And I left God and religion. I didn’t officially declare anything. I just abandoned Him. I had other things to do.
Well, over the years, I found that that smile gradually dimmed. I started to do the bad stuff, and develop bad habits. Alcohol and sex, greed about my own career and success, a lot of the usual stuff everyone can fall into. And after about 15 years, that smile had turned into a frown.
It was then that God came for me. I mean I turned to Him, but He came to me. And then, the smile started to come back.
Well, that’s great, OK when you’re with God you’re happy, you got the smile, and when you’re not, well you’re not happy.
But there’s something else. I started to spend a lot of time with God, a lot of time thinking about Him. And one day I cried. I mean, I began to cry. First for 15 minutes, then half an hour, then an hour on the floor crying. Why?
Because I realized in a very real way, that the whole time I was off keeping God out of my life, doing the stuff that hurt myself and others, putting nails through Jesus’ hands, that whole time? He was there. He was taking it – and He never abandoned me. I never even knew it, I never recognized Him, but He was there the whole time, from day one. Everything I did that hurt myself or other people, it hurt Him too. But He never accused me, He never got back at me, He never gave me an angry response or yelled at me or sought justice from me. He took it all, and He waited and waited until I was tired of it myself. He was there with the same look of love and hope in His eyes that I remembered when I was a little kid, but now all wounded from what I had been doing. He never gave up on me. He never abandoned me. That love melted away all the guilt and pain, and I let go of all those destructive ways. That’s why I cried.
That woman in the Gospel, the one who cried on Jesus’ feet and washed them with her tears, she knew. She knew now that God had never abandoned her, even when she had abandoned Him for all that time she spent doing her bad stuff. She knew that love. And she was letting that past go. “So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven because she has shown great love.” (Lk 7:47)
Whatever we do or have done in life, whatever regret we have, whatever frown we’re wearing, God has not abandoned you. He is always there, has always been there, waiting for you to get tired of hurting, waiting to show you the love that can convince you to let go of the destructive ways, waiting to give you back that smile you had when you were a kid. Because He is a merciful God.
He is our Father.
Happy Father’s Day.