Vanessa LeRow is the wife of Stefan–an elder for Harris Creek–and the parent of four lucky kids. In addition to reading, writing, and completing Pinterest projects, she can Instagram with the best of ’em. Vanessa, thank you for sharing a word about the homecoming of prodigals.
Who doesn’t love a good redemption story? Luke 15 is one of the best. The story of the prodigal son–who takes his wealth and his character, squanders everything and defames his family name. Ultimately, he hits rock bottom (literally in the muck with pigs). He admits his failures. Hangs his head in shame. Returns home to his father. Who, surprisingly, embraces his son and celebrates the homecoming of a formerly rebellious child.
Ah…can I get a collective, “Amen.”
It’s nice when stories end up neatly tied up with a bow. We like the neat and tidy. But, we have to remember we read this story in retrospect. Hindsight is 20/20. Clarity and understanding often come through the lens of the past.
But, what was it like to live that story?
How many years did the father wait for his son? How many prayers did the father cry through bitter tears and heartbreak? How many times did the father wonder if he “did all he could have done for his child?” Did the father dare voice in his prayers, “but, God, You promised plans for peace, not evil, to give a future and hope…?”
And, what about the rebellious kid? When he fell onto his bed at night, did he cry from the shame of his sin? Did the weight of loneliness and guilt suffocate him? Did the fear of being too broken or unlovable prevent his feet from running home?
Oh, and let’s not forget big brother. Did bitterness and resentment prevent an authentic, loving sibling relationship? Did his dad lose credibility because he responded in love rather than judgment? Did the older brother need proof that the younger brother suffered sufficiently before he would extend grace? Did he want the satisfaction of knowing he was right and the younger brother was wrong?
I don’t think it’s hard for us to imagine what it’s like to live this story.
I’m a reformed prodigal. I’ve lived “in a distant land. Once there, (I) wasted everything I owned on wild living.” I’m not proud of my story. I’m humiliated and embarrassed by it, but I will continue to tell it for several reasons. One, it gives hope to those parents waiting for their child to come home. Oh friend, know that God has not forgotten your wayward child. He is relentless in His pursuit of him/her. He loves your child more than you do and He wants reconciliation. As painful as it is to watch, God will do whatever is necessary to bring the wayward and rebellious to the end of himself. Brokenness is the avenue God uses to enter the rebellious heart. It’s an act of mercy.
I punished you because I was furious,
reduced you to little on account
of your persistent wrongdoing;
BUT I will restore you, reclaim you,
and rebuild you because
I cannot help but love you.
And, for you, my fellow prodigal, come home. Whatever you are pursuing is not worth the pain and slavery it will cause. While I believe that all sin separates us from God, not all sin carries the same consequences. You don’t have to end up in the mud and muck of the pigsty. Instead of thinking you know better, lay that burden on Someone who truly knows better for you. Accept the awaiting forgiveness. You are not too broken to be loved. He will make beauty from your broken life.
Unfortunately, I am also the older brother. The irony of the older brother’s entitlement and the younger brother’s foolishness isn’t lost on me. Immaturity can breed foolishness, but maturity can breed pride and self-righteousness. The longer I walk with the Lord and the more He matures me, the more I have to confess, “I’ve worked hard all these years and THAT person gets grace too?! It’s not fair, Lord.”
Well, that’s an embarrassing confession.
The beauty of the Father’s answer is my favorite thing about our messy Gospel:
My son (daughter), you are always with me,
and all I have is yours…this is YOUR BROTHER we are talking about.
He was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found again!
Let’s pray for the homecoming of prodigals.
Let’s confess the pride of our self-righteousness.
Let’s fight for our brothers and sisters, not with them.