Lessons from a Late Bus

"God uses so many circumstances in our lives to remind us of His great love for us." by Diane Stark

How much longer is the bus going to be?” Eight-year-old Nathan asked.

I glanced at the clock and sighed.  “I don’t know, Bud.  It’s really late this morning.”  I smiled and added, “I’m glad we drove the car to the bus stop instead of walking.  It’s cold outside.”

Nathan nodded.  “But it’s warm in here.”  He turned up the car radio and grinned. “Plus we can have a dance party while we wait for my bus.”

Our local Christian radio station blared from the speakers and Nathan knew the words to every song.  Suddenly, he turned down the radio and said,“What’s a prodigal? I like this song, but I don’t understand what it means.”

“A prodigal is someone who runs away from God.”

His mouth dropped open. “Why would anyone run away from God?”

“Well, lots of reasons. When I was a prodigal…”

“You were a prodigal?  You ran away from God?  Why would you do that, Mom?”  His disappointment was evident.

“Well, Honey, it was a long time ago, and I made some really bad decisions.”

“But you always tell me how much God loves us. Why would you run away from Him?”

“It’s complicated.” As I struggled to explain things to him, the look of disappointment on his face deepened. “I guess I just wanted to go my own way for a while,” I finished lamely.

“That’s not a good reason to run away from God.”

“You’re right, it’s not.”  I sighed, feeling like I’d just been given the “Worst Mom of the Year Award.” “Let’s head back to the house.  I don’t think your bus is coming, so I’ll just drive you to school today.”

When we got home, Nathan and I went upstairs and found my husband, Eric, getting ready for work. As soon as Nathan saw him, he said, “Dad, did you know that Mom was a prodigal?”

Eric’s eyes flicked to mine and he smirked. Then he looked at Nathan and said, “Do you know what a prodigal is?”

Nathan nodded solemnly.  “It’s a person who runs away from God, and Mom did that. It was wrong of her.”  His shoulders slumped. “I can’t believe Mom was a prodigal.” He spat out the last word as though he was disgusted with me.

I grabbed some clothes and headed to the bathroom to change.  I closed the door and slumped against it. I just couldn’t take the look of disappointment on my son’s face any longer.

Through the door, I heard Eric say, “You’re looking at it the wrong way, Bud.  You’re focusing on the word ‘prodigal.’ But God focuses on the word ‘was.’  Nathan, your mom used to be a prodigal, but she isn’t anymore. She came back to God. She stopped running away from Him and started walking with Him. God loves us and He forgives us when we run away from Him.”

“But she said she was a prodigal for a long time.”

“That doesn’t matter,” Eric said. “It’s never too late to come back to God.  No matter what, He will always welcome us home. Jesus tells a story in the Bible of a son who took his father’s money and ran away.  Eventually, the money ran out and the boy came home, hoping that his father would make him a servant in his house. But the father had been watching and waiting for the son to come home and when he saw him, he ran to him and hugged him. The father was so happy to have his son home that he didn’t care about what his son had done. That story shows how God feels about us when we come home.”

“So God isn’t mad at Mom?”

“No, not at all.  God loves Mom, and He loves you.  No matter what mistakes we make, God will never stop loving us. When God looks at us, He doesn’t see our mistakes. He only sees His children, who He loves.”

I stood on the other side of the door, tears streaming down my cheeks.  Silently, I thanked God for the truth in the words I’d overheard and for the wonderful man who’d said them.  Like God, Eric was always on my side.

As I drove Nathan to school that morning, the song about the prodigal played on the radio again. As I listened to my son singing, I fought tears, still regretting how I’d disappointed him.

When the song ended, Nathan said, “Mom, I’m glad my bus was late this morning. I never knew that you were a prodigal, and I was upset when you told me, but Dad helped me understand that God’s love is way bigger than the bad stuff we do.”

I swallowed hard against the lump in my throat. “That’s right, Bud. There’s a verse in the Bible that says that nothing can separate us from God’s love  [See Romans 8:38]. So even though I ran away from God, He still loved me and He never gave up on me.”

“I’m never going to run from God, but it makes me feel good to know that He’ll love me even if I do someday.”

I smiled at Nathan in the rearview mirror and thanked God that He uses so many circumstances in our lives to remind us of His great love for us.

Even late school buses.

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