17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
I've heard various sermons on this passage, some say the young man was very repentant, others say he wasn't repentant at all, but merely hungry and looking for an angle to get back into his father's good graces.
I prefer to believe that when the Bible says "he came to himself" it means, he realized he was wrong, and he longed to be with his family, but knew he had almost certainly broken his relationship beyond repair.
And this is where the beauty of the story begins.
While he was a long way off...
The Father is waiting. Just as this young man's father was waiting, was watching, so is our Heavenly Father. He is watching for us, watching over us, waiting for the day when we will come to our senses and return to him with repentance and hope that we can, in some way, still live in His light.
And, with complete joy, this father runs to his son, brings him in, offers him full forgiveness and pardon, not even waiting to hear the words of repentance. He restores his son with a full celebration.
God is waiting for us to do the same. And for those who have returned to the Father, we have received full forgiveness and pardon. We have been fully restored, and a celebration is being planned.
If we will only come to our senses.