Lost and Found

Darrin’s scripture “workshop” group is starting up tomorrow, and for the first group meeting, he asked us to share a brief, memorized piece of scripture with the group (which will hopefully be comprised of several people who have taken part in various FCC creative arts projects over the past year or so). At some point, we may end up reading for the congregation, though I’m not sure if it will be the pieces from tomorrow night or not.

I’ve never been one of those people who talks all the time about this or that verse being their “life verse,” because for me, I think it would be difficult, and darn near impossible to try and summarize my feelings about and toward Jesus with just a single verse. Yet somehow, when I got the email from Darrin about the group, the very first verse that popped into my mind was from the Gospel of Luke, verses 17 through 20. The parable of the prodigal.

Since I have been a believer, that brief story has been one that I have come back to again and again, and it hits me right in the bread basket each time I read it. I think that’s because I have spent so much time wasting my inheritance, and also because I am continually amazed at what God did for me when—like the son—I returned to Him, acknowledging my unworthiness.

I find myself thinking of that story in regard to my boys all the time. Whether or not they acknowledge it or I acknowledge it, they will be looking to me to see how things are done, and how to treat people. They will wonder how to respond to God in times of adversity, and hardship, and blessings. If I am the leader of our family I hope to be, then these are all things David and John will be looking to me for answers about.

And one of the more complex things I’ve been thinking about, and wondering how on earth to explain it to them, is what to do when we mess up. When we turn away from God, willfully. When we know what we should do, and do the exact opposite. It could be for lots of reasons. Maybe we feel we’re entitled to something because life has been a bitch, and we deserve _______. Or who knows why?

But we fall, and we sin, and one day we wonder what to do about it. We wonder if we can go back. We wonder if God will still listen to our entreaties.

I need to show my kids that we’re never so far from God that we can’t turn back toward Him. I need them to know that His love for us is so much greater than our mistakes. And silly as it sounds, I need them to know that I am not some perfect ideal of belief, of faith. I need them to know I’ve fallen, too. That I’ve been light years from God, and that even as far as I’ve been, when I turned back to Him, God was waiting for me.

Which leads me to Luke 15: 17-20

17“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! 18I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20So he got up and went to his father.
”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…”

There are a few books in the bible I’ve read more than once. More that I’ve read several times—and many, unfortunately, that I haven’t read at all. But I keep coming back to Luke; especially, the parables found in Luke 15. I must have read Luke more than a dozen times in the past year. Particularly, the parable of the lost son.

Today, I remembered that I posted about it last year, and it occurred to me to go back and raid my own post. Maybe it’s just that I’ve been feeling like the lost son again of late—the lost son ready to return to my Father.

Lately, I’ve felt like I’ve been wasting away my inheritance. Wasting it with my feeble prayer life and even feebler discipleship. Wasting it with my poor example to David and John about what it takes to me a man. Wasting it by not being the strong leader my family needs me to be.

And now, I’m ready to come back to my Father. So again, I turned to my old friend Luke. But maybe it isn’t just me. Who among those who believe has not done the same? Who hasn’t been the lost son? Who hasn’t taken generosity and love for granted? I think of all the times I’ve responded to God in a like manner. Maybe that’s the point, though. At least for me.

Personal conviction. And awareness that I need to repent anew.

Something always strikes me about that parable. Not so much the son’s apparent repentance–to me that smacked of forced contrition, not true remorse. It’s kind of hard to tell from the brief passage that mentions it. Of course, that could just be the cynic that still lives somewhere deep inside me. Just look at the son, though. He’s broke, and hungry, and has nowhere else to go. He’s just relating what he’s going to do, not baring his heart, or even seeking forgiveness. He came to his senses, it says, but that’s all. The son could have just been talking about finding a meal at that point.

He’d wasted away his inheritance. There was a famine. Why not return to the source of the inheritance, where the servants fared better than he was at the time?

Certainly, all those things are important. Yet what impacted me most was the father.

His grace toward the son.

The passage mentions that he sees his son when he was still a long way off, so he had to be outside looking for him. Scanning the horizon. Desperate to see his son return. I can see him standing there, shading his eyes with a hand.

Looking.

Waiting.

Hoping.

Not seeing.

Yet every day, looking.

It does not say how long he looked for his son. Only that:

”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…”

It kind of makes you think about the shepherd looking for his ONE lost sheep, rather than writing it off because he still has 99. He will pursue the lost one, and he will be filled with Joy when he makes it back home with that one sheep across his shoulders.

That’s the same Joy God feels when we return to the fold.

How he felt when, like the prodigal, I came to my senses. When I stood, looking across the Colorado river with tears running down my face and holes in the knees of my jeans. Was it forced contrition with me? Perhaps in a sense it was. But God did not care how I came back to him—just that I returned.

He felt joy. And scripture also tells us that angels rejoice.

But look again at the father’s reaction upon seeing his son.

“his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him…”

He did not stand waiting with his arms crossed, brow furrowed with displeasure. He did not grudgingly accept a tentative and awkward apology.

He was filled with compassion for his son, and he ran to him.

He ran.

He ran, probably forgoing all semblance of dignity.

He ran, robes flying, probably with arms extended. Running across the field to his lost son.

He ran, and he was filled with compassion.

He ran, and when he got to him at last, he threw his arms around him, and kissed him.

No condemnation, no judgement.

Just love.

He threw him a party, and killed the fatted calf.

This morning, I read that passage again and I thought about Jesus scanning the horizon for me, desperate to see me. I thought of him running toward me with his arms outstretched, running across a field to get to me. He’d been waiting for me all the time I’d been holding out, waiting for me to come to him. Waiting for me to come burdened, and afraid, and encumbered by the world.

He waited for me, even though I was not ready. Me, in my dirty robes.
He waited for me with his shepherd’s arms outstretched. He waited for me, in my unclean and starving state—impure in both thought and action.

Me, covered in the filth of my journey home.

Me.

And when he saw me, he could wait no longer.

He ran. And when he finally reached me, he threw his arms around me
and kissed me.

And there was rejoicing in heaven.

Advertisements

Author: twilk68

God has changed my life, and changed me. It's that simple. I will ever be grateful, and if I live to be...well, OLD, I will never tire of telling people about the work done in my life, and what can be done in theirs, should they trust God with their innermost everything...

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s