A few years back I stepped into a professional wrestling ring with two of my best friends in Harlem. We grew up watching spandex-clad athletes assault each other every Monday night for years. One day we heard of a local wrestling group offering tryouts. We decided to join them.
We had our ring names picked out – a faction known as The UnXpected. Our T-shirts would bear our catchphrase: “Respect The UnXpected.” The merchandising dollars would be rolling in.
We dreamt of winning world championships and entering the Hall of Fame.
We never made it out of training.
The weekly practices we endured wore down our bodies. I had trouble getting out of bed the morning after my first night learning the ropes.
I attended four training sessions. Then one week I was overwhelmed with schoolwork and my job.
I decided to stay home instead of making the drive to practice. And then I found an excuse to miss the next training session. And then the next.
The weeks piled up. Pretty soon I felt like I had missed too many sessions, and that I could never go back to practice. So I never did.
I was embarrassed. Life on the mat had proven too difficult. I feared what my trainers would say to me after being gone so long. I thought they would question my character, make me endure some sort of punishment, maybe even tell me to just go home.
It’s never easy making that walk of shame back to a place from which you ran away. Our minds melt down from the worst-case scenarios of what could happen if we tried to come back.
If you’ve been away from God for long – if you haven’t been to church lately, if you haven’t pulled a Bible off the shelf, if you haven’t spent time in prayer – you might feel the same way. You may be embarrassed about going back. You may think the road to return will be too treacherous. You may think the price you have to pay is too steep.
You are wrong.
God has not been stewing in anger over your absence. He has been searching for you. He has been staying up late every night peering out the window to see if you’ll come back.
When you do, he will not make you do drills to make up for your lost time. He will not make you run extra laps as punishment.
When you come back to God, he will ignore your excuses and apologies. Instead, he will throw you a party.
Jesus tells a story in Luke 15 of a son who was embarrassed to return to a father he had shunned. When he finally mustered up the courage to face down his old man again, the son tried to spit out a pre-written apology. The father never heard these words. Instead, he embraced his son and began shouting to his servants to prepare a party.
That’s exactly what God wants to do for you. You don’t have to clean yourself up.
You don’t have to come up with an excuse for what you’ve been doing away from him. He does not care how long you’ve been gone. He just wants you back.
God does not base his grace on how well-written our apologies are. Stop wrestling with your excuses, and step back on the path home to his waiting embrace.
ALEX DORIOT IS THE DIRECTOR OF STUDENT MINISTRIES AT THE HILL BAPTIST CHURCH IN AUGUSTA.