I had just taken a sip of coffee and was staring absentmindedly at the menu, feeling the stress of another workweek beginning to slip away… and then it started. First as a small whine, I don’t waaaant to; then it amplified into a full-blown tantrum… aaaaaahhhhhh [crying] nooooooooo [kicking the chair]. No, it wasn’t me telling my husband how much I didn’t want to go back to work on Monday. It was the small, but hearty-lunged, child at the table next to us expressing his displeasure with his parents. I glanced over and caught their exasperated faces and slumped shoulders as they asked for to-go boxes while wrestling a coat onto their child (who seemed to have turned into an octopus). I wanted to tell them it was just a phase, like teething or potty-training. But, I never was a good liar.

Parenting isn’t for the weak. The constant struggle between I can do it myself! and Why aren’t you helping me? never ends. It’s hard to know when to stand back and when to jump in, when to say yes and when to say no.

Poor God, parenting all of us.

“Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.” Not too many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. He went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. (Luke 15:12-15)

Can you imagine having 7.5 billion children? Some who love you, and others who hate you. Some who stop speaking to you, and some who never started? Some who run from you? Like the prodigal son in Luke 15, how many times have I whined, “Father, just give me what I want,” then squandered those gifts recklessly? How many times have I spoken to God in anger because I didn’t understand his yes or no? How many times have I stormed away from God, turning my back on him with indignant, bitter condemnation of his perceived mistreatment of me?

How many times have I thrown a full-blown tantrum in response to God—my King, my Lord, my Father—who has never once stopped loving me?

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And his father said, let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. (Luke 15:20-24)

Your Father loves you. No matter how many tantrums you’ve thrown or how long you’ve been away, he is always watching and waiting. God loves you, and—no matter what—he wants you to return home. Look to God, the perfect parent, and trust in him. Believe in his everlasting love, and embrace the blessed assurance of being forever linked as parent and child.

Let the celebration begin.