Wednesday, August 20, 2008

the true prodigal

Oftentimes in the prison or in places where I go to share about faith-based recovery, the story of the prodigal son comes to mind or is mentioned, and rarely is there a person who does not know it. It is recorded in more than one Gospel in the context of Jesus talking about the joy all heaven experiences when one sinner repents. It is the subject of countless works of art, the inspiration for stories, books, movies, sermons, in every culture and in every setting of space or time, the story never fails to make an impact. But I've heard it said, and was reminded again when I found this beautiful work of art referenced in another blog, that the true prodigal in the story is the father. The word "prodigal" means wasteful, lavish, unrestrained and indulgent. Is there a better way to describe a character who withholds nothing from a child, not even their freedom to make terrible choices and squander a lifetime of hard-earned inheritance, to leave and then come back and be received with the same loving grace? I love the climax of the story in Luke 15:20, "So he (the son) got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity and tenderness, and he ran and embraced and kissed him fervently." He saw (because he was looking every day), he ran (because he felt no anger or desire to shame), he embraced and kissed fervently (because his love could never be extinguished). The drawing above is actually called "The Prodigal Daugher". We all are in the place of the child, and God the Father is the one being alluded to in the story.

I had the privilege of sharing this with a young man in a rehab situation who feared his mother especially would never forgive him for the things he'd done in the past. All I know is God imparts a piece of that prodigal heart to every parent and unending grace to keep the door open and a light burning.


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