Have you ever made a mess of a moment, a month or more? Most of us have.
Jesus told a compelling story about a son who deliberately walked away from his family and their values only to find that life away from genuine love is no life at all.
The son in the story is the baby of the family, who grew up in a loving home with privileges -- plenty of food, clothes, and enough honest work to earn satisfaction at the end of a day. His family had more than enough resources to meet their servant’s and their family’s needs.
But restlessness settled into this boy’s reckless heart. He wanted to move beyond Papa’s house. He asked to pre-collect on his inheritance -- he wanted now what was meant for later. He was eager to move on and travel the streets beyond his home’s white picket fence. The colorful world beckoned. Home life with all it boundaries had dulled. Open the gate. He wanted out.
His father gave him his inheritance. Like most dads, he knew that it’s impossible to create or enforce enough rules to make your child choose the best path in life. It must have hurt the father dearly to know that the coins he put in a bag for his son were the keys to possible ruin. But youthful lessons are often learned at great expense.
Foot loose and fancy free doesn’t come near to describing this young man’s romp. He traveled far away from home in distance and heart. “Friends” flocked to his money and wanted the good times to keep rolling. But one day, when the boy reached into that bag, he only felt the leather bottom. The coins had vanished. All those nights gone wild, were gone, and his new buddies had slithered off to their home pits.
A severe famine hit the land and his nothing became even less. No source of comfort. No home. No food. But hunger often aids the return of common sense. First, he needed to find a job to support his eating habit. In those days, work for party-boys was scarce, but he finally found employment feeding a herd of pigs.
His wages were meager and his stomach never stopped growling. And one day as he slopped the hogs, he looked hungrily at the abundance of their swill. That’s when he had an epiphany at the pig trough.
“How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!” (Luke 15:17). At that moment, he roused from selfishness to repentance. He made a conscious decision to return to his father’s house, and inquire about employment as a hired hand. In his mind, he prepared a speech and it would begin, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you….”
The near-ruin young man found his way home, and in the distance he spotted the precious white picket fence, but it was only a backdrop for the one he really longed to see. Out in the lane, running to meet him, he saw his father. And when his dad reached him, he scooped him up in a big bear hug, held his face in his hands and kissed him.
His father’s extravagant love fueled the son’s remorse, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son” But his dad didn’t want revenge or to lop off a branch of the family tree. He wanted him grafted back. With great joy, he asked his servants to bring a beautiful robe, a ring, and sandals. And he told them to prepare a feast, for a celebration was about to take place, “[T]his son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”
The entire chapter of Luke 15 is filled with coming home stories, of finding a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son. And the essence of each homecoming story is God’s loving forgiveness and heaven’s rejoicing when prodigals return home.
Have you messed up for a moment or a month or more? Turn for home. Watch for the white picket fence. Watch for the Father running to scoop you up in his warm embrace.
I appreciate all you faithful readers. I think I started emailing my newspaper column out in early 2006. Thanks bunches for sticking around. Due to a recent glitch in a list server I use, I lost nearly 2,000 addresses of folk who were getting the column. Plus the server is unable to send any mail to Yahoo users. I'll most likely seek another server soon. If you know of someone who would enjoy the column, please forward and invite them to sign up. May God shine on and through you and yours...Cathy