You know that story in the bible that Jesus tells, the one about the son who squanders his inheritance with wild living? Well, guess what;
I am a prodigal.
Ok, I never really did much wild living, I am an introvert after all and parties are not my thing. I have never done drugs or developed a taste for alcohol. All things considered, I prefer to spend my free time snuggled on the couch with a good book or sitting at my computer writing, playing games or generally wasting time. Many people would look at my life and wonder where the prodigal part comes in.
Well, let me tell you.
The story of the prodigal son is not so much about the wine, women and song that the young man spent his money on. Rather, it is about disobedience, disrespect and distance. The man publicly humiliated his father by asking for his inheritance early. In effect, he was saying
“Dad, I wish you would kick off so that I could get my cash now. See, my buds and me, we want to take off for California and hang out at the beach. That is where the real living is. So gimme what I got coming to me.”
The Dad would have been the laughing stock of the town. I can just see his neighbors shake their heads and whisper behind shielding hands about how they knew that boy would be trouble and how Dad had never been able to control him. What a shame.
But Dad let him go. He probably stared after the retreating back of his son until long after he disappeared into the distance. Every day, week, month and year that followed, Dad would stare down the road watching for his son. Maybe today would be the day.
Then finally, one day, Dad looks up. Maybe today will be the day. He peers down that long dusty road. Something is moving. Just a tiny speck. Is it a traveler passing through? Or a peddler on his way to the next town? Or maybe the road is crowded with travelers, it is market day and everyone is headed into town. Out of all those people, Dad sees something. A beggar is shuffling along the side of the road. No one else seems to see him stumble with weakness. He is walking hunched over, one arm wrapped around his belly as if he is in pain.
Dad recognizes him. There is no physical resemblance to the proud, strong young man who had walked away so long ago, but a father knows his children. Dad drops everything. He begins to walk toward that shambling figure. He walks faster and faster until he is running. His robe is hiked up around bony knees as his feet move faster than they ever have before. His heart is pumping with exertion but over the pounding of blood in his ears, Dad’s spirit is singing with joy. He is home!
When Dad reaches the filthy creature, he pulls the boy into a close embrace. Dad doesn’t care that his son is dressed in filthy rags. He takes no notice of the stench of the unwashed body, ripe with the odor of animal dung and sickness. He doesn’t see the smears of mud and worse that are transferred to his own fine robes. All he knows is that his son has come home.
So how am I a prodigal?
By society’ standards, I am not so bad. But I know the truth. I know how God wants me to live. I know that I should be making the most of the gifts of the Spirit; love, faithfulness, joy, self-control, gentleness, patience . . . the list goes on. Those are my inheritance. But do I use them consistently? Do I pray and strive to grow closer to the goal?
No, not so much. I am critical, selfish, moody, impatient, pessimistic and my self-control is sadly lacking. I squander my days with unimportant distractions.
I am so grateful that every time I turn aside from the path where God is leading me, He is always right there waiting for me to turn back. As soon as I do, He races to meet me. He loves me that much.
Lord, thanks for being patient with me. You know my weaknesses better than anyone, even me, but You never turn me away or lose hope. I often lose hope, as You well know, I am frequently ready to give up, but You keep cheering me on. It is a precious gift and one that I often fail to appreciate. Thank you for not giving up on me.