I once saw a special on PBS about Lewis and Clark, the famous explorers that crossed the United States in the early 1800s. It was an interesting program and contained roughly 1 million sermon illustrations. I’m not a pastor and this isn’t a sermon, but one part of the show struck me as particularly profound.
Midway through their journey, Lewis and Clark topped a small set of hills. On the other side they expected to find a river that would speed them the rest of the journey, eventually emptying in the Pacific Ocean. When they crested the hill though, with winter chasing after them, the sight that greeted them was very different. For there, in the distance were the Rocky Mountains. Miles upon miles of America’s most unforgiving terrain loomed large, with snow-capped peaks and deep green trees that seemed to march on for hundreds of miles.
There was no river escape, no easy last half of the journey. The worse lay ahead, the hardest terrain was in front of them. And with winter pressing down, they had little option but to continue, into the mouth of the Rocky Mountains.
Have you ever felt like that? Have you ever walked up a hill, thinking the worst was behind you, expecting to find freedom on the other side, only to be met by mountains? Maybe you got divorce papers when you thought counseling was really starting to heal some wounds. Maybe the promotion didn’t come through, the house wouldn’t sell, the University you wanted, didn’t want you.
Sometimes when I find myself at the top of a mountain with an endless expanse of troubles ahead, I feel alone. That God is at the end of that long walk and until I made it back to Him, I would not be near Him. But in looking at my favorite story, the prodigal son, I noticed something interesting about the distance between us and God. In Luke 15, when the Prodigal Son comes to his senses, the Bible says simply, “So he got up and went to his father.”
We’re not given a distance to how far he had to go. There’s no mention to whether he’s ten miles away from his father’s estate or ten million. We’re simply not given that. What we do get though is the distance the father travels for the son.
Here is how verse 20 reads:“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.”
The father runs a long way. It is the father’s feet that travel, the father’s legs that run without ceasing until they reach their destination. And that destination is us.
Why tell the story that way? Why didn’t Christ say something like, “After the son had been traveling for a while, he saw his father?” Why not have a transition sentence between when the son gets up to go home and when the father runs to him?
Because there isn’t one. There is no waiting period. No part of the journey when the son travels home unseen and alone. Christ purposely moves from the son leaving the pig pen to the father running after him. The father’s love is instantaneous. The father’s run is immediate.
There are mountains ahead. They might be the Rockies, they might even be the Alps, but you will not walk them alone. You will not meet your father midway or need to scale the first one by yourself. The father is coming. Rescue is imminent. A party is being prepared. All you have to do is get up and go.