I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of angels of God over one sinner who repents. – Luke 15:10
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the lost sheep, coin, and son in Luke 15. Every time I read Jesus’ teachings, something new pops out at me. Today, God reminded me of a time in my life where I was indeed His prodigal daughter. And I reminded God, His sense of humor is hilarious.
Flashback to thirty years ago, I was in college in Vermont, living at mock speed. I took more than a full course load, worked more than part-time, and juggled more and more responsibilities in my sorority and community. I’d fallen deep into the trap of “more is better.” I relied fully on my enthusiasm and high energy to get me through endless busy days.
Looking back now, I see how I was running away from all the “D’s” in my life.
Death – My godly and loving grandfather had died of cancer.
Disappointment – My dad had lost his job again.
Devastation – My high school boyfriend had broken up with me.
I was angry at God for taking my grandfather. He was too young and we still had trips planned. I was angry with him for not giving me the fairytale childhood I’d dreamed of. And I was angry at myself, for pushing my boyfriend to get married in college. I must have scared him off.
Anger filled my tank, so I ran. I ran away from God and all the pain. Like the prodigal son, I ran toward fun and adventure, thinking I could numb the pain.
I learned the hard way that running doesn’t solve our problems.
Once I stopped running and looked around, I often found myself with even more problems. Like the time my sorority sisters knocked on my door and invited me to a late night fraternity party. I had just pulled out my suitcase to pack for the weekend. Early the next morning, I was flying to visit one of my high school friends in Virginia. It was their Homecoming Weekend, another fun distraction.
As my sorority sisters pulled me out the door, I figured I’d pack later and get some sleep on the plane. So I tossed my suitcase onto the floor and headed out.
The next thing I remember was a car horn blasting in the driveway. I jumped out of bed, ripped open the blinds, and saw my ride to the airport idling impatiently in the driveway.
Trying not to wake my roommates, I left the lights off and fumbled in the dark, packing my suitcase and quickly dressing for the journey. When I arrived in Virginia, dazed and disheveled, my girlfriend took me straight to her dorm and pointed me to the showers.
Back in her room, wrapped in a towel, she reminded me how they “dressed up in the South.” Fortunately, I’d planned for this and brought a couple of my best dresses.
As I unzipped my suitcase and flipped the top open, I gasped in disbelief. Not only had I forgotten my dress, but I’d also forgotten underwear, pajamas, shorts, shirts, sweaters, pants, and socks. My entire suitcase was full of SHOES! Running shoes, high heels, flats… some didn’t even have a match. And, oh my gosh… I’d taken my roommates shoes too!
There I stood in my girlfriend’s dorm room dripping wet, with only shoes to wear. I glanced at her closet and immediately knew we were in trouble, because she was a size 2. Up and down the hallway we asked for help. I’ll never forget the weekend, I dressed in borrowed clothes and looked like I was from the South.
It reminds me of the prodigal son, when he found himself way outside of his comfort zone, in a place where he never should have never been.
Every once in a while we all face the hard truth… it’s time to come to our senses.
What’s amazing about God in the prodigal son parable is how He runs to welcome his wayward son once he comes home. He doesn’t shame, blame, or try to teach him a lesson. He simply loves His wayward child unconditionally.
I wish I could tell you I came home to God after that crazy weekend in Virginia, but I didn’t. I laughed about all the shoes with friends back in Vermont. They weren’t really surprised by the mess I’d gotten myself into. They could see my life had been spiraling out of control.
No, it would be another ten years before I finally “came to my senses” and returned home to God. Honestly, it wasn’t my plan to go back. But God, in His merciful and creative way, had a plan. He used a simple running watch with a 3:00 pm alarm to wake me up to how lost I’d become.
One truth I’m convinced of.. we’re all prone to be prodigals, but God’s love and mercy never, ever gives up on us.
No matter where you are: far from God, on your way home, or safe in His loving arms, remember, “There is rejoicing in the presence of angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). Repenting is a simple U-Turn; admitting you’ve been on the wrong path and walking back to God.
I hope you’ll check your mind, heart, body, and soul to see if something in your life is spiraling out of control. If so, turn right around today. Whatever shoes you’re wearing, start walking home. God is waiting with out-stretched arms, ready to welcome you home.
3 O’CLOCK CIRCLES
Here are 3 questions you can discuss with someone or in a circle with several others.
Please take a few minutes and read the Prodigal Son’s story in Luke 15:11-32.
1. Why do you think we’re prone to be prodigals? What in our culture encourages us to walk about from God and our faith?
2. Think of a time when you walked far from God. How old were you? What was going on in your life at the time? Where did you go?
3. What truths about God did you learn living far from Him or once you returned home?
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