3/12/2020 – The Parable of the Prodigal Son
Passage: Luke 15:11-32
Written By: Hannah Allred – Undergrad
“He lets us get lost for while if it’s what we really want. When we do, He doesn’t pout or withhold his love the way I probably would if someone completely ignored me or walked away from me. Instead, He pursues us in love.”
-Bob Goff, Everybody, Always
Throughout my entire life, I have struggled with perfectionism. I have always been immensely more hard on myself than anyone else has been on me. Because of that, I have found that it is hard to accept God’s grace when I make a mistake. Just as I do when I make a mistake that hurts another person, I apologize profusely to the Lord again and again. And while I really do mean it, it always seems difficult for me to let go of the shame I feel for making a mistake, even if I know in my heart of hearts that the Lord is much more graceful with me than I am with myself and has already let it go.
For this reason, among many others, the parable of the lost son has always resonated with me. As a child I was confused and almost angry for the older brother who had stayed home and done what he was supposed to do. As the eldest of 4, I understood what it was like to always do the right thing and strive for perfection all while seeing my siblings make mistakes only to have my parents forgive them almost immediately. However, as I grew older, I realized that while we’d all like to think that we are the older brother who stays home, oftentimes, we are more like the lost son: headstrong, lost, but all the while still loved immensely.
Something that strikes me in this parable almost immediately is the idea of choice. In verse 12, Jesus says “The younger son told his father ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So the father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.” What strikes me as interesting about this is that the father gives the son a choice. The father doesn’t get angry or try to talk his son out of it, but rather he allows him to make his own choice and gives his son the money.
I think our Father does the same thing for us. Our God is a God that gives us choices. He wants us to do the right thing, but I think sometimes mistakes are necessary in order for us to realize how deeply we need the Father.
Eventually, we know that exactly that happens to the son. When the son is starving, poor, all of his money gone, only then does he realize how deeply he needs his father. And so, like we do when we know we have messed up, the son sheepishly goes back home all the while practicing exactly how he will apologize and hoping that maybe –just maybe– his father will pity him enough to take him in as a servant. I cannot know for sure what the son was thinking as he saw his father from afar, but I have to assume that the son never expected his father to react the way he did. Verse 20 says “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.”
I think our Father does the same thing for us. Because if we are honest, we are all “a long way off,” but that doesn’t matter to the Lord. We are beloved, not because we are perfect and not because we have done no wrong, but because the Father is good and full of mercy. So full of mercy, that He RUNS to us– He meets us where we are, embraces us, and welcomes us home.