In his best-selling book, Disappointment with God, Philip Yancey writes that he went to visit his long-widowed mother one afternoon and the two spent hours looking through a box of old photos. Yancey says a certain picture of an eight-month-old baby caught his eye. Tattered and bent, the picture looked too banged up to be worth keeping, so he asked her why, with so many other better pictures of him at the same age, she had kept this one.
Yancey writes, “My mother explained to me that she had kept the photo as a memento, because during my father’s illness it had been fastened to his iron lung.” During the last four months of his life, Yancey’s father lay on his back, completely paralyzed by polio at the age of twenty-four, encased from the neck down in a huge, cylindrical breathing unit. With his two young sons banned from the hospital due to the severity of his illness, he had asked his wife for pictures of her and their two boys. Because he was unable to move even his head, the photos had to be jammed between metal knobs so that they hung within view above him. The last four months of his life were spent looking at the faces he loved.
Philip Yancey writes, “I have often thought of that crumpled photo, for it is one of the few links connecting me to the stranger who was my father. Someone I have no memory of, no sensory knowledge of, spent all day, every day thinking of me, devoting himself to me, loving me . . . The emotions I felt when my mother showed me the crumpled photo were the very same emotions I felt that February night in a college dorm room when I first believed in a God of love. Someone is there, I realized. Someone is there who loves me. It was a startling feeling of wild hope, a feeling so new and overwhelming that it seemed fully worth risking my life on.”
Obviously Yancey’s mother’s influence was powerful. But his father’s love, even though he has no real memory of his father, helped him move forward in life. And, as he would be the first to acknowledge, any parent’s love is but a pale reflection of the love God has for each of us.
This coming Sunday as we celebrate Mother’s Day, I will also continue my current sermon series on the Parable of the Prodigal Sons. For the past two Sundays, we have focused on the famous younger prodigal. But this Sunday our focus turns to the parent of these two brothers. What is Jesus trying to tell us in this parable? Is there something distinct Jesus is wanting us to know about God that we might have missed? I think so, and I plan to share that this coming Sunday.
I look forward to seeing you in worship this week!