We all know of the parable of the prodigal son; the Father, who represents God, is asked by His son, who represents one of His children, to give him his inheritance. The Father does so, the son goes away and squanders a third of the family fortune (the older brother got twice the inheritance, as per Jewish customs, meaning the younger brother had a third of the share instead of half), and wasn't even fed what the pigs were fed.
Here's a portion of the story:
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! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 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. 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.’ 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. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
(Luke 15:17-24 ESV)
I could go on, and will, about several details here; pigs were considered unclean by Jewish people. This particular part of the parable would've caused great disgust with Jewish leaders, and even the disciples at that time. A man in a field with pigs, longing for the food that the pigs were eating. That is less than lowly.
Another aspect is that the Father showed him mercy when he would ask to be treated only as a servant. Instead of this, the Father accepted him as His son again, and even threw a party.
My favorite part, though, is something often overlooked. “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.”
The return itself isn't what I most enjoy, but the Father's reaction. Yes, the Father ran out to him, but that's not quite my favorite part, either. “...while he was still a long way off, his father saw him ...”
The Father didn't merely see his wayward son coming home while sitting in his house attending to other matters, his son didn't knock on the door, the Father had no reason to be in the fields for He had servants. It's not happenstance that the Father saw him from afar. The Father was waiting. He wasn't just waiting, either, He was anxious to see his son coming back. He never gave up on him. He stood at watch, eagerly anticipating the return.
When we stray, when we tell God we want to go live in the ways of the world, He doesn't just say “Oh well, have fun,” then go about other matters. He says, basically, “If you must,” then waits, and waits, and waits, because He doesn't give up on us.
And just when we start to come back, we don't have the chance to meet Him where He's at or to make it up the would-be driveway before His love for us overflows—He runs to us! He meets us where we are, embraces us, cries for joy over us, all before we have a chance to plead our case.