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 15:20)
I have a group of friends I visit regularly. Well, when I say regularly, I mean every day. And although I love this group of friends dearly, and make a point to be with them every single day, oftentimes, probably because of regularity and familiarity, I can drop by for a visit and wonder if any of them really know, or care, that I am there. In fact, there are days when I feel invisible. Now, I know the benefits of invisible (see this post) and am mindful enough most days about those benefits to actually have the grace and the wisdom to lean into its invitation when it occurs.
But there is something else I've begun to notice recently. There is another side to this whole story. There is also a longing deep within it. And a longing that I think was designed to draw us towards God. It is the longing to be seen. Deep within each one of us, I believe there is a yearning to be seen; to be noticed, to be acknowledged, to be recognized, and ultimately to be known. When we are seen, it lets us know that we have value, that we are important, that we are somebody, even though our deepest fears would tell us quite the opposite. So when we are seen, it touches something deeply within us that was actually created to be touched. It brings something to life within our souls. Now obviously we can (and do) attempt to satisfy this longing in all kinds of illegitimate ways--that is ways that were never intended to fully satisfy that longing--but at the core of it all, it touches something within us that was put there by God.
That's why I love that when the lost son (of Luke 15) is on his way home from a land and a life where he was just a part of the dingy, dirty terrain, the first thing that happens in his return is that he is seen. The Father sees him. That means the Father was actually looking for him, thinking of him, yearning for his presence, and his company, and his return. And what do you imagine was in the Father's eyes? When He finally saw his son out there, way down the road, still a long way off, what happened in His heart had to have come out through His eyes. And when the son saw His face; saw that he was seen, he knew immediately what was in the Father's heart--delight.
How do you imagine God sees you? What is in His eyes for you? The answer to that question will tell you a lot about what you really believe to be true about God. Are His eyes filled with disappointment, and disdain, and frustration? Or are His eyes filled, as they were here, with love and joy and delight? I think that's why Jesus tells this story to begin with. Because the people had begun to believe something that was simply not true about the Father. So he gives them/us a rich visual of how our God really sees us. And in our heart of hearts what we most deeply long for is to be seen in just that way. Thanks be to God!