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We're All Prodigals Being Called Home

The way we believe God relates to us will determine how we relate to Him. I keep writing about this, but I am more and more convinced that what we believe about God has the power to change our lives. Much of the turmoil in our lives comes from not knowing the deep love God has for us. His love calms all of our fear, but not unless we are coming to know it more deeply through opening up to Him. Many of our fears reside deeply in us and we are often unaware of how they keep us from the vulnerability with God that allows us to experience His great love. 

Pieces of all of us are hiding in the dark, afraid to come out and this often causes us to only allow the 'good' parts of us to be seen. Much of the behavior modification taught as a way to godliness does nothing to calm our fears that if we come stumbling to Him in our very broken places, He may shame us all the more. But what if this is not who God is? What if coming to Him with our all of our messy parts is the way to inward change that will result in true godliness.

We really can't quite imagine the extravagant love God has for us. It simply seems too good to be true. While sitting with God one day, I heard Him speak to my heart, "You will never find Me to be less loving than you hope Me to be." This has to be true, because how could God who IS love be less loving than we hope?  

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The story of the Prodigal Son is so familiar to us, we may not see very clearly what God is speaking to the hiding  places in us. Below, I am going to tell the story of the Prodigal Son with the ending in a way I know I have sometimes viewed how God sees me. I am going to end with the true story. We all have a bit of Prodigal in us. As you read, put yourself in the Prodigal Son's place. 

"The Prodigal Son Reimagined"

Luke 11:15-20 The Message:

There once was a man who had two sons. The younger said to his father, "Father, I want right now what's coming to me."

So the Father divided his property between them. It wasn't long before the younger son packed his bags and left for a distant country. There, undisciplined and dissipated, he wasted everything he had. After he had gone through all his money, there was a bad famine all through that country and he began to feel it. He signed on with a citizen there who assigned him to his fields to slop the pigs. He was so hungry he would have eaten the corn-cobs in the pig slop, but no one would give him any. That brought him to his senses. he said, "All those farmhands working for my father its down to three meals a day, and here I am starving to death. I'm going back to my father. I'll say to him, 'Father, I've signed against God, I've sinned before you; I don't deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand.' He got right up and went home to his father.

Luke 11:20-24 reimagined:

When the young son was still a long way off, his father was busy in his daily affairs so didn't notice. He had many things to take care of. His young son rarely entered his mind. Slowly the door creaked open and there stood his young son, grimy and full of mud. The Father put his head in his hands and with a sigh said, "Where have you been?" The young son stood ashamed and stammered, "Father, I've sinned against God, I've sinned before you; I don't deserve to be called your son ever again." 

The Father considered what the son said and looked at him sternly, deep disappointment filled his heart and crept towards his face. "Nonsense," he responded, "You will be called my son once again after you prove yourself for a bit. Afterall, I'm merciful." He grimaced at the smell and silently wished his son would have called to him from outside the door. He called to the servants, "Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and get rid of these filthy things. Hide the family ring. I don't trust him with any of my possessions or authority after what he has done. He can have it back after he proves himself for a bit. I guess he'll need sandals too, it seems his are worn down to nothing." Turning to the young son, he said, "You're going to have to work off all you have wasted and when you do that, you can once again have your place back. Until then, you will sleep and eat with the servants in their quarters. I look forward to when your behavior proves you are my son. I wish you would have made better choices." Looking back down at his work he said flatly, "I was worried you died. I'm glad you are back. My head servant will tell you what to do." As the son left the room, he said, "Thank you. You are a good father." He knew he was getting better than he deserved and hoped one day he would be back in his father's good graces. Now he had some work to do."

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Most of us know enough to know God won't send us away, but wildly delighted when we bring to Him the broken most shameful places in us? That seems too good to be true! Certainly, a God who delights in us despite our shameful and sinful places is a God worth coming to. Another word for what the Prodigal son did when he came back is 'repentance.' What if repentance sounds austere to us because we believe in an austere God like the one pictured above? What if the invitation to repent is not an austere command, but an invite back into the loving arms of the Father who loves us completely and perfectly?

Lately, God has been challenging me to implement the practice of daily repentance in my life. In the churches I have traditionally been in, repentance is encouraged for known sin, but daily repentance is not emphasized. In fact, I have heard of concerns that it is focusing on sin a little too much. What if repentance is actually focusing on the Good Father? Daily repentance is a daily invitation to bring all of our prodigal attitudes, tendencies, thoughts, behaviors and wrong ways of doing life to the God who is waiting for us open armed and with joy. Only He can clothe us in righteous robes that are fit for His house; fit for a child of His. Only His blood can wash away the dirt from the far off land. What if our ability to repent fully and joyfully depends a lot on our view of God? If we believe in a God like the father in the above story, we may have trouble repenting. If we are brave enough to truly repent, the repentance will be shame filled instead of hope filled. 

Now let's take a look at how the Father actually responded and how the Father responds to us:

"The Original Prodigal Son"

Luke 15:20-24 The Message

"When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech, "Father, I've sinned against God, I've sinned before you; I don't deserve to be called your son ever again."

But the father wasn't listening. He was calling to the servants. "Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a prize-winning heifer and roast it. We're going feast! We're going to have a wonderful time! My son is here - given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found! And they began to have a wonderful time.

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I don't know about you, but if this is God's response to us when we come, I want to come. I want to keep coming and coming. Every day I find in me attitudes, tendencies, ways of thinking and actions that are more at home in the far off land than the Father's house. I don't want to mess around in a far-off and hidden land of unconfessed sin and shame when I can be fully with the Father who loves me deeply and unconditionally. God's arms towards us are always open and He is looking towards our hiding places calling every part of us home where we belong. Repentance is coming home to Love.