Hello: Here is this week’s Living Water. It is actually the final chapter from my book Giving Faith a Second Chance. I just felt like someone out there might need to hear this today. Blessings, Christopher
“He who counts the stars and calls them by their names, is in no danger of forgetting His own children.”
It was a familiar ending. It seemed inevitable. This son, this brother had gone off, thinking he knew better (Luke 15:11-32). He thought he was too big for his family, for his hometown. So he took his share of the family fortune. He would show them.
Well, things didn’t go exactly as planned. They never do. The world kind of got in the way of the plans. The distractions, the pleasure-chasing, all the wasted time on fruitless adventures – they ate up that portion of the family fortune rather quickly.
“No problem,” this son and brother thought. He would just get a job and build everything from there. But the job was worse than dead-end. And there he was – everything was lost and he was a prisoner of his choices and the consequences of those choices. He had reached the end of his rope. And like we have said, there is a certain clarity at the rope end. And so there was for this son and brother. The crazy idea came to him, that maybe he could go back to his father and ask for forgiveness. It’s amazing how the rope end influences us to conceive of the impossible things we swore we never would do. We start thinking about things that only happen in dreams, good dreams. We start facing the truth at the rope end. At the same time, it’s incredible how the end of the rope jars our memories of good things like old pictures of what was good; of what can still be good or good again.
Here was this son and brother, hitting the bottom; how far he had fallen. It all could have ended right there. Maybe he wouldn’t die right away, he would sooner or later, but it was his soul that was nearly dead and he was already dead and lost to his family. It could have been a familiar ending; one we have read and heard about so many times…
But he was on his way back. “It couldn’t get any worse,” he must have thought. Facing a living or an actual hell or facing his father; his father might forgive him; hell wouldn’t. He practiced his speech again. The distance and the walking weren’t as far as the distance he felt from his dad. It could have been a million miles, but the gulf he felt between he and his family was much more. The shame, the sense of failure, the sins and the damage were all wider and farther than any road.
So many questions. Will he recognize or remember me? Will they let me back into the family?
He kept walking despite the prison he was carrying, despite the fear, despite the doubt.
And then it was in sight. The house. The house and the family he had shamed and failed. He practiced the speech again. “Father, I have sinned against you…I am not worthy to be your son…” The road was the same and as he looked up he could see someone moving toward him; now running. It was him, the father.
“Can I do this,” the son asked himself. “Maybe I should turn and run; this feels awful, I think I am going to puke,” he thought. “He is probably running towards me to tell me to get out of here; that I am not allowed to come near this house ever again.”
The son remembered a chasing game they used to play when he and his brother were children. The father would chase them from far away. And as he would run after the sons, he looked bigger and bigger to them as he approached. He always looked bigger, clearer just as he scooped them up in his strong arms.
Now the father was running toward the son again. The once impossible distance was now rapidly disappearing. The father was coming from his house – the son coming from the rope end. And just like before, the father became bigger as he came closer.
The son looked down as to hide. And when he looked up again the father was there right in front of him his arms first raising and then opening…opening for an embrace.
“He wants to hug me?” the son thought in confusion. And then it happened. The son was in the arms of the father again. The father embraced and kissed the son.
And all the son could think was, “I don’t deserve this, I am not worthy of this man’s embraces and kisses.” He thought of his speech. “I have to say my speech about how I am not worthy.”
He tried to stammer out the words, but then he realized that his father wasn’t listening; his father was already starting to organize the party. What about the punishment? What about the condemnation? What about the speech about awful he was?
See, the return spoke all the more than any speech and confession…he could come home after all; because he came home first in his heart. Before he even took a step with his foot, he was already home. The miles, the distance, and the sins all can be miraculously bridged with that one lean and lurch and tilt of the heart.
So that after all, for the son and for us, there is an open seat, we can be recognized; we can be found, heard and held. After all, our souls can breathe again, the eclipse can pass, and there can be real fulfillment. After all, the prison door can open and the questions can be answered. After all, for the son and for us, it can be like this and more by returning through the broken pieces of our hearts.
After all, for the son and for us the celebration can begin…
- Have you been or have you ever tried to make it on your own and failed? Can you share about that and how it felt, if you were able to, to go back?
- Is there any chance God could be like the father in this story? Why or why not?
- Could you also come home to God in your heart before you even take a step? Are you ready to do this through asking for a second chance?