Just some early morning thoughts from me to you…
Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided the property between them…[and] the younger son…set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living…and he began to be in need…He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating…
When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will…go back to my father and say…‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him….[and] said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe…put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf…Let’s have a feast and celebrate.’” Luke 15: 11-24 (NIV)
It’s a long verse but a short story. I suspect that Jesus was smiling as He told it—knowing the punch line that was coming. You have to admit He really had a way with parables—our Jesus.
A way to make a point with His tone, expression and words that would last longer than that younger son’s inheritance. And the central moment of this parable is a theme that is woven throughout the Old and New Testaments—from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21. Simply and clearly a poignant reminder of God’s continual presence in our lives and His never-ending love for us—no matter what pigpens we find ourselves wallowing in.
James Hales wrote and Taranda Greene sang a song entitled “A Thing Called Love” which in one part sums up the parable of the Prodigal Son (Prodigal Father) fairly well—
There you are, loving me,
There you are, faithfully,
Pouring out mercy, mending my heart,
Just when I thought I’d wandered too far.
There You are. There You are. There You are.
The father of that younger son never gave him a chance to ask to be a hired servant. Instead he picked him up out of his pigpen and restored him to all the fullness of life.
Maybe we can’t identify with that young son. Maybe some of you have never been there. Maybe you’ve never felt as low as that young man, with the filth caked on his clothes and pig slop staining the edges of his lips betraying where he had eaten his last meal. Maybe you can’t identify with that story.
Maybe you’ve never fallen that low, failed at something in life, felt ashamed at something you’ve done, disappointed or hurt someone close. Maybe you’ve never stood with your knees shaking—afraid to move—facing something you were sure you couldn’t do. Maybe that bag of names and stereotypes which others have labeled you with hasn’t gotten too heavy yet to carry another step. Maybe you’ve never been at a place where it wasn’t worth waking up to another day. Maybe you’ve never been where that young man had been.
I suspect, though, that you’re breathing rarified air if you haven’t experienced any of those moments. The truth is that we’ve all felt the pain and sting from the roadblocks, detours, ruts and fallen trees we find along the roadways of our lives. But the message of that story and the message woven throughout God’s Word to us is that through all of that—God is there, to love us unconditionally and lift us out of the pigpens in which we find ourselves, and into all the potential He has placed in our lives.
And with one eye on us, lifting us out of the muck and mire of our mistakes, hurts and failings, He watches with the other to see if we are lifting up others. Will we tell someone that God loves them, and then not show that love ourselves? Will we see someone’s failings and mistakes, and yet not help them move forward into all the potential of their lives?
Let’s start close to home.
How do we see our spouse? Are they still in the pigpens they found themselves in at some point, or are they rising toward their true God-given potential? What are you doing to hurt or help them on the journey they’re on?
What about our children? Do we help them to see the sunshine just beyond the rain? Or do we pour more water over them when they’re in the middle of a downpour? Do we model hope or despair to them in our own lives? Do we encourage them or yell at them? Do we paint a picture of all they can be, or stereotype them similar to what was done to us when we were their age…or is still being done to us? In those moments, do we lift them or label them?
The Father’s love is always there to embrace and redeem us from our fallings, failures and disappointments. It comes with a smile. And more than that, He is our example to do the same for others, to share His love with those who are often standing very close, right at the end of our elbows.
Just something to think about, to claim and perhaps do something about today and everyday—forever.
In His Name—Scott
Copyright 2014. Scott L. Whitaker. All rights reserved.