There’s an episode of “Little House on the Prairie” that, after all these years, still haunts me, but in a good way.
The Ingalls family adopt a young, abandoned boy named Albert in season five.
In season six, oldest daughter Mary, now grown and married with a baby, is blind. She and her husband, Adam, who is also blind, run a school for blind students.
In this episode, Albert and his friend are down in the school basement, sneaking a smoke with a pipe.
Someone discovers them and the boys pretend they’re not doing anything wrong and leave the basement. They also leave the pipe behind, which sets the school on fire.
Everyone gets out safely, except Alice Garvey, a friend of the Ingalls family, and Mary’s baby. As Alice tries to rescue the baby, they both perish in the flames.
When Albert realizes that he and his friend caused the fire, he panics and runs away.
Filled with guilt, he sets out to return to his birth father. There’s no way the Ingalls would ever let him remain their son, not after what he had done.
Albert eventually gets to his old home only to find a grave marked “J. Quinn” — his dad’s grave.
Now, with his biological dad gone, Albert has nowhere to go.
Meanwhile, Pa and his friend, Jonathan Garvey, begin searching for Albert.
They want to find this boy, and nothing will stop them as they go from town to town, asking everyone if they’ve seen him.
Eventually, they spot him and Pa calls out, “Albert!”
Albert takes off running.
You just know that he’s thinking that Pa, and especially Mr. Garvey, whose wife was Alice, hate him with red-hot hatred and anger. They want to catch him to punish him.
So, as Albert runs faster, the men run faster.
Then Mr. Garvey, played by the late NFL defensive tackle Merlin Olsen, catches up to Albert and tackles him; Albert is terrified, crying and screaming, “Let go of me!”
Mr. Garvey tells him, “Stop! No more running!”
“You don’t understand,” Albert says, sobbing.
“Yes, I do,” Mr. Garvey says. “I know what happened and so does your Pa.”
“I can’t go back,” Albert says, utterly lost and remorseful for what he had done, yet certain that Pa would never forgive him.
And then you hear Pa calling out. But this time he doesn’t call him Albert.
This time he calls him Son.
“Son! I love you, Son! I love you!” And Pa runs to him, holds him and cries.
That is who God is and how he loves us.
The Bible says once we were not God’s children, not even his friends. We were his enemies.
But now, through Jesus, we are adopted sons and daughters, and God will never unadopt us, no matter what.
Pa could’ve let Albert keep running. He could’ve told him, “Good riddance to you, after all the grief you’ve caused,” and Albert probably would’ve accepted that.
But Pa called him, “Son,” reminding him that, although not his flesh and blood, he was still his beloved child nevertheless.
Pa held him, cried with him, and then brought him back home.
Friends, that’s what God does for us.
“His (God’s) unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by sending Jesus Christ to die for us. And he did it because he wanted to!” (Ephesians 1:5, The Living Bible).
He adopts us, holds us, weeps with us. He forgives us and restores us to himself and his forever family.
What great love!
Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria — I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing” and “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.