My husband John tells a story from elementary school when he and his siblings decided to run away. Although he no longer remembers what inspired the mutiny, he does remember his parents listening to the list of complaints, helping them pack a few snacks, then letting them leave.
They hadn’t gone very far when their father met them at the street corner and said he just wanted to see how things were going, and if they knew yet what their plans were. They admitted that they hadn’t really thought that far. At that point, their dad asked if they might want to come home, as it was getting late, and maybe they could put together a better plan after a good night’s sleep. It wasn’t viewed as an order but as a suggestion, given the late hour. And so they all walked home together.
John says that this image of his father waiting patiently for them at the street corner is as good an image of God as he can think of.
The prophet Joel instructs the people to return to God, but the emphasis is not on what the people do; it’s all about who God is. God can be counted upon because, as Joel shares, God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love (v. 13). Though the people will turn away, God will always show up for them.
In what experiences have you felt that God has patiently waited for you? When have you needed to return to God?
God, remind us that we can return to you, for you are faithful and steadfast in your love. Amen.