Part 2 - The Prodigal Son
“Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so...”
I sang that song in Sunday school as a small child and I believed it - wholly. If you had asked me about Jesus as a small girl, I would have known that he loved me, that he saved me, that he lived in my heart. I would have told you about the love of the shepherd for the lost sheep, that God will pursue us into the wilderness. I knew my value as a child of God.
But small girls grow up and the world begins to replace the words of that song.
Remember those middle school years, the ones that destroyed all that self confidence we had as girls. The ones where we were starting to see the world, and the people in it for what they really were, flawed and scary. The years when we begin to sing a new song.
“No one loves me this I know, for the world tells me so...”
I was that girl. The one that believed that I was not loved, not worthy of love. The one that walked through life, who spoke of God and Jesus, and the stories in the Bible but did not feel it. And then one day it all changed for me.
I was in eighth grade the first time I really heard the story of the Prodigal son. It was a sunny Sunday morning in Oregon. I can picture the Sunday school classroom with the thin metal chairs. The song that played to illustrate the lesson - the story of the Prodigal son from Luke 15.
While we can all understand Jesus loving the lost sheep and searching high and low for the lost coin, the next story, the story of the two sons... Oh my this was a paradigm changer.
Luke 15: 11-24
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 his property between them.Tim Keller writes in his book The Prodigal God that this request. “...was a sign of deep disrespect. To ask this while the father still lived was the same as to wish him dead. The younger son was saying, essentially, that he wants his father’s things, but not his father. His relationship to the father has been a means to the end of enjoying his wealth, and now he is weary of that relationship. He wants out. Now. 'Give me what is mine' he says."
“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: 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 servants.’ So 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.“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
I think we often look at this story and see the son’s arrogance, his independence, and then his eventual repentance. We see the story from our point of view. It was on this particular Sunday in 8th grade that I saw the father for the first time. It was verse 20 that sunk deep into my soul. “So 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 rant to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”
The father ran to him. While he was still a long way off. He ran. He picked up his robes and ran for his son who he saw in the distance. When he reached his son, he threw his arms around him and kissed him. He did not wait for his son to apologize, to grovel, to earn his way back into the family. His father loved him, even after all the harm he had caused. His father loved him because he was his son. It was that simple.
I don’t know why I was lucky enough to really hear those words that day, to know deeply that my father in heaven loves me, but I was. I knew once again that Jesus loved me. This Bible story told me so.
Henri Nouwen writes in his book The Return of The Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming, “It was the loss of everything that brought him to the bottom line of his identity.”
On that day in 8th grade I found my identity. I am a child of God, loved and redeemed. It is the very essence of who I am.
Where do you find your identity? How do you describe yourself as a person?