The Prodigal Son
Remember Jesus telling the parable of the Prodigal Son? In a rough and terribly brief synopsis; a man had two sons. The younger of the two came up to his father and asked for his inheritance early. In that cultural context, this was the most disrespectful, greedy, and family-ruining thing a son could do. He was essentially saying to his father “I wish you were dead”. The father concedes. The son goes and blows all the money, and when he finds himself in the literal dirt, eating pig slop to survive, he realizes he could go back and ask his father to be a servant. The prodigal son returns, ready to beg to be a servant and work for food and shelter with the other servants.
The father sees his son coming home and runs to him. Under no circumstances would a man run in that time; it was inappropriate and simply not done. But the father ran. He embraced his son, and would hear none of his son’s pleas. The prodigal son was given the best robes, and a lavish celebration was thrown to recognize that the son was home, and in his right standing as the father’s boy and heir.
As I was reading this story, I resonated with the younger son. I didn’t even mention the older brother, who was furious that the father would allow his son to come back and even throw a party. I resonate with that brother too. It depends on the day, I think, who I identify with.
But this time something about the younger brother’s head hanging, face hot and sweat pouring down his back as he beat himself up all the way back home, preparing to do what he thought could to make it a little right. Knowing it would never be the same again.
The younger brother was stuck in that place of undeservedness, as if he had never met the Father’s joy and acceptance right in his broken, terrible spot. I can get like that. When I don’t feel free from the weight of my sins or condemnation, not because of God’s attitude toward me but my own.
Because true humility is God focused. It is saying yes, I am nothing. But Jesus, YOU are everything. Yes, I have fallen short, but YOU came from heaven to earth to seek me. Yes, I am broken, but your wholeness is spilling over in me and mending me. All is lost, but you are restoring it.
The prodigal son’s father receives him with joy. All his debts are wiped away, and his standing as a beloved son is instantly restored. The father throws a lavish celebration to recognize his son is home. And it is only because of the father’s deliberate grace that the son is restored, and made new. God gives us freedom, but we cannot be afraid to grasp it. Freedom means free falling; stepping off the tight rope that we are walking in our own control and letting go. Knowing God will catch us, is in control, has good in store for us. HE has already done everything so we will never have to get on that tight rope again, sweat and tears mingling as we strive to balance on that narrow line in our own power. Freedom is terrifying. Letting go of shame and guilt are terrifying. But that is what God offers. We are free indeed.