Amy: We’re about to have Christmas dinner. Joining us?
The Doctor: If it’s no trouble.
Rory: There’s a place set for you.
The Doctor: But you didn’t know I was coming. Why would you set me a place?
Amy: Oh, because we always do. It’s Christmas, you moron.
–The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe (Christmas Special 2011)
There are times that I feel a little bit like the Doctor. No, not in the awesome, powerful, super-smart hero of the universe kind of way–the lonely, broken, scatterbrained, flighty kind of way. Like the Doctor, I sometimes find myself getting engrossed in the silly and the spectacular in an effort to distract me from the important things that I’m missing–the people that I love. Sometimes I find myself alienated from the people closest to me because of an overwrought sense of guilt or even duty. And sometimes, these emotions separate me from the greatest love I have–the love of Jesus Christ. I’m flitting about the entire galaxy, it feels like, doing anything and everything to take my mind off of the fact that I have let Him down.
When I finally buckle down and realize that it’s time to go back, time to figure things out and get over the problems that I’ve been dealing with, I always half expect to be read the riot act. Have you ever felt like that? I expect God to sort of grudgingly accept me back into his presence, warily eyeing me as I tread cautiously back to my place before the throne. I sort of wait for the “I told you so,” I guess. I imagine I’m not alone in this feeling.
If you’re anything like me, though, you’ve realized that God basically never reacts that way.
A while ago I was in my devotions, feeling pretty guilty for my list of failures, and finally laying myself bare before God in an effort to close the chasm I perceived between us. But instead, much to my surprise, I heard my slightly prickly Savior respond, “What are you moping around for? Stop being ridiculous and get up, we have work to do!” And instantly I was taken back to this episode of Doctor Who.
For those who haven’t watched/don’t care: The Doctor has just faked his own death in front of the people who care about him most–Amy and Rory. They later found out that he was still alive, but he has been flitting about time and space under the firm conviction that they believe that he is dead. After being severely reprimanded for this deception by a new acquaintance of his, the Doctor shows up on Amy and Rory’s doorstep. It’s Christmas Eve, two years after the last time they saw him. He is understandably cautious in his approach. After all, they have a life and a family apart from him. How will they take his sudden appearance?
In classic Amy and Rory fashion, there’s a bit of good-natured bickering before the two embrace the Doctor and tell him that they’ve known he was alive the whole time. And then the amazing happens–Amy and Rory invite him in. They tell the Doctor that he is not only welcome, he is expected–he is part of the family. There is always a place at the table for him. And the tears on the Doctor’s face indicate that he is just as touched by their love and generosity as I find myself touched when God reaches out to me.
God reminds me that there is always a place set at His table. When I show up on his doorstep, a bit ashamed of the way that I’ve been avoiding him for so very long, He just pulls me inside for a warm conversation over a hot meal. I used to think that I couldn’t relate to the Prodigal Son–even when I have been the farthest from God, I have never been an outwardly rebellious person, and so I tended to see my part in the story as the part of the reluctant older brother, needing to be humbled and forgiving. I am starting to see that I need to be forgiven as much as anybody–and God is just as willing to do so for me as He is for anybody else. My job is to accept it, embrace it, and walk inside to enjoy the place set for me.
“How great the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God!”–1 John 3:1