Luke 15:11-32 To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. 12 The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.13 “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. 14 About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. 15 He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. 16 The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.17 “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, 19 and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’ 20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. 21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’ 22 “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, 26 and he asked one of the servants what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, 29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. 30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’ 31 “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. 32 We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”
As my oldest attends a Christian retreat weekend at her school, I cannot help but reflect on my own teenage life this weekend. The story of the Prodigal Son came up in my mind quite often. You see, probably unbeknownst to my family, I was the son that ran away. I didn’t run far from sight. They could all see me. I always called home. I made everyone believe that things were great, but that was far from the truth. Things were bad. Life was crippling me. Work was a dead end street. My choices were wrong and immoral.
It all started in college, and seemed to take a downward spiral as I moved away to Florida to search for that perfect job in marketing (which was my major). Failed interview after failed interview brought me to my knees. I was a top student. I should be a prize to any corporation. Why didn’t they see that?
I will tell you why – because 20 plus years later I can see clearly why I wasn’t a great prospect for any job opening. I didn’t like myself, and it was obvious. My outward appearance showed it. My face was broken out from the alcohol I was drinking. My stance was slumped over because I doubted myself tremendously. I was exhausted from all of my bad choices, and I wasn’t eating properly because I was living off of $5/hour that I was making at Disney World.
My parents came into town and invited me out to their rental beach house for the weekend. During this visit my dad and I took a walk on the beach. I remember dodging around the issue of what I wanted to do with my life because he flat out asked me. I so desperately wanted to share with him that my life was a mess, but I didn’t want to disappoint him. I just couldn’t say the words that I needed to confess that day. During this conversation, my dad must have been quite in tune with who I was becoming. He spoke to me very few words during our walk (he mostly let me talk), but when he did speak he said this, “Anne, why don’t you just come home?”
Back then it didn’t mean much to me besides an escape plan, but today it reminds me just how far God will go to get you back on track. Today it reminds me that I was the Prodigal Daughter. Just hearing my dad welcome me back home relieved me of my sinfulness. God used my dad that day to talk to me. He used my dad to give me a message, gently guiding me back to Him.
I ended up going back home after talking with my dad. My life didn’t change immediately. In fact, I am ashamed to say that I started to go right back to what I knew – a life of bad choices. We all go back to what we know – mostly because it is easy. It is hard to change. There are always people who will jump right in and cheer you back into the world of sin and bad choices. Just like there are bad people to drag you down in life, there are good people too. God continued to send those good people in my life, but unfortunately it took twice as many good people to outnumber the bad people in my life. God pressed on though. One day, I was out jogging and met another person that God had sent to me. His name was Pete. Pete encouraged me gently to go back to church, to be proud of who God made me to be, and to move forward without fear. I just needed a little push. Pete gave me that push. Pete and I were married just 2 years later, and he still guides me toward God.
When I think of all the stupid things I did when I could have been loving and enjoying God’s Will, well, let’s just say I wish I could have a do-over. Looking at my oldest daughter and her choices so far in life, I cannot help but be a witness to her about what the future could bring. If I could tell all my teenagers one thing it would be that every person that you come across in life should lift you up. All people (including ourselves) should be messengers for God. Our friends, our future spouse, our family – they all should inspire us toward God. Just choose to walk with God (even when it seems difficult and impossible), and those bad people will run. Walk with God, and your choices will be made with strength. Walk with God and watch how you can change lives (including your own).
Don’t ever think that you have made so many bad choices that God won’t want you to return to Him. He wants you all the time. He wants you damaged. He wants you even when you think you are unlovable. You see, I was that person. I was unlovable to most people, but God used the one person who loved me unconditionally here on earth – my dad. He used Pete in the same way. Why else would a complete stranger show me God’s Glory so beautifully? Pete was a complete stranger when I met him that day jogging down the street. God used an ordinary event to do the extraordinary. It had to be God because who else could foresee that Pete would someday love me unconditionally – knowing my bad choices and loving me all the same? God never gave up on me. He never stopped trying. Praise God I opened my eyes to His presence. Don’t miss out on those people in your life that are calling you home. Open your eyes to the good that surrounds you. Let God reveal to you the beauty that lies within. He made you for a purpose. A very special, unique purpose.