Even if you’re not really a “churchy” person, you’ve probably heard the parable of the prodigal son in the Bible. You know, the story of the kid who demands his inheritance long before his dad is even close to being dead, leaves town, spends everything he has on partying and women, then has to settle for a job feeding pigs when all daddy’s money runs out. The job barely pays, and he becomes so famished he wants to eat pig slop. The Bible says one day he “came to himself,” and in that moment he realizes he always had everything he needed back home, and he decides to return to his dad.
It’s the quintessential story of our tendency to think things will be better “if only,” when usually we can find contentment right where we are–we just need the right perspective. I bet you’re thinking of someone right now who fits this story to a “T”. If you’ve been around a while, you’ve probably cringed as you’ve watched others around you turn their backs on a perfectly good situation in life to search for greener grass on another hill, only to crash and burn in a heap of bitter remorse. Call me annoyingly optimistic, but I am convinced that for people like this, there is hope, just like we see at the end of this parable in the Bible.
The last part of the story isn’t so much about the son, but about the father and his heart for his son. He’s outside on his estate when he sees his son on the horizon, plodding toward home, hoping his dad will accept his apology. Without hesitation, the father is off and running, sprinting to his bedraggled and humiliated son. When he reaches him, he throws his arms around him, welcomes him, then begins to shout orders to his servants: “Bring my best robe for my son! Go kill that fat calf we’ve been saving for just this occasion! Get my favorite ring to put on his finger! My son has returned, and it’s time to celebrate!”
Even before his son has a chance to say a word, the father has forgiven all, forgotten all, and the uncontrollable joy in his heart is spilling out onto everyone in the house–maybe even to the entire surrounding region. You can read the whole parable in Luke 15:11-32.
Did you know that this is exactly the way God views us? No matter what kind of mess we make of our lives–and we can be pretty good at messing things up–God’s love toward us never changes. If you’ve been distant from God, I guarantee that if you take just one step toward Him, He will come running at you like nobody’s business.
Happy December 8th!
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