When You Are the Prodigal

Many of us are familiar with the story of the prodigal son from the book of Luke where Jesus is telling His listeners about two brothers. The younger brother, (the prodigal), decides he wants to do life on his own and that he doesn’t need his dad, just his money, so he can go and live a fun life and do whatever he wants. So the son, having received his inheritance, goes off on his adventure for a lifetime of partying, drinking and sex. Eventually the money and fun run out. He finds himself friendless, homeless and starving, eventually coming to the realization that life would be better for him back home as one of his dad’s servants instead of going on like he’d been living.

While on the way back to his father’s estate, he starts preparing his apology. His father spots him from a ways off and comes running to him, embracing him with hugs and kisses, joy and relief. The son begins his well-rehearsed speech but before he can finish, his father calls to the servants to prepare a celebratory feast in honor of his son who has returned home! “Spare no expense! The best meat! The best wine! Let’s party!”

The story sounds great when read at Christmas or as part of a painting or drawing hanging in the church lobby. It’s a different story entirely to be the actual prodigal of the story.

We usually have one of two responses to the story of the prodigal son: Either “that’s not me; I’d never do that” or, “that is so me. I’m that prodigal child and always have been.”

In this post I want to talk to the prodigals.

What’s your story? How did you get here? Although everyone’s story is unique, a prodigal’s tale usually starts with a simple idea that’s nurtured into a question.

We start by beginning to question God’s goodness just like Eve in the Garden of Eden. We continue by thinking there’s got to be something better out there, that we know better than God. We begin to fill our lustful hearts with things that we think will fill us in a way that our Heavenly Father simply can’t. We say, we are “taking a break” from God or church when what we really mean is that we are trying to ignore God and avoid church so we don’t have to be confronted with our sin.

While we have separated ourselves from the Father, we begin to wonder, “Will God take me back? Maybe if I do something to help another person, God will forgive me. Maybe if I end this relationship or quit this habit God will love me. Perhaps if I start going to church again God will help me out of this mess I’ve made.”

Here’s the thing, if you’re the prodigal, you can’t earn your way back to God.

Just like the father of the prodigal son, our Heavenly Father is looking out waiting for His children to come home so He can celebrate their return. God is not waiting around ready to unleash His “I told you so” and scold you with a long list of your past sins. He is waiting for your return. Eagerly. Excitedly. Expectantly. He is waiting for you to turn from your sin and return to Himself. He longs to forgive you and make your heart clean again. He wants to show you His grace and mercy, not because you’ve finally earned it, but because of His great love for you, to have you restored unto Himself.

Sound impossible? That’s what the love of God is like.

So what do you do if you’re the prodigal?

Call out to God and confess your sin to Him. Tell Him how you long to come home. Ask Him to make your heart clean again. Then, reach out to a trusted and loving Christian friend or mentor you perhaps have not spoken to in a while and update him or her on your desire to return to God. This person should be someone who can help you reconnect into a one-on-one discipleship relationship and church community.

Maybe you know a prodigal. Or maybe you are one. The good news is that we all come home the same way, through the reconciling blood of Jesus. Our God is the Great Reconciler and Extravagant Lover of His people and He longs for us to be His.

So, how is God reaching out to you? What step will you take next?

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