I asked my son Jarrod’s permission to share a page out of his life’s book if I promised to protect his identity. He never hesitated in declaring, “I don’t mind you using my name!” He understands this page in his chapter on repentance was a pivotal moment not only in our relationship, but also in his spiritual development. His willingness to let me share it demonstrates the confidence he has in the grace he received.
If you have kids or have ever been one, you know the teen years naturally cause emotions to rise and fall quickly. The teetering toddler who once held a finger tightly, all too soon transforms into a teenager who secretly wants to slap that same hand as far as the east is from the west. Eventually and inevitably, tempers flare. Voices rise. Faces redden. And that’s just the mother! 🙂
However, on this particular day it was Jarrod who lost his cool. He let a man old enough to be his father get under his skin while playing golf, and he lost all control. He knew disrespect would not be tolerated by either his dad or me. He had also learned early on to confess quickly when he’d done something wrong. Being the son of a teacher who taught in his school helped him realize someone always stood ready to tattle. He also learned the hard way that things would go much better for him if he confessed before I heard it from an eager tattletale. But this time the news beat him home, and his mama was more than a little upset.
I usually let his dad handle most of his heavy discipline because heaven knows it takes one to know one. This time, however, all my pushed buttons wore Jarrod’s fingerprints. It had been a hard season of teachable moments. When I finally saw him, I pounced on him like a hungry lion on its prey. He sputtered and fumed and announced he was going to leave. (Just between you and me, my heart broke, but I stood my ground.) I told him he could leave if he wanted to, and go as far as the measly sum in his checking account would take him. Out the door he went. This was not our finest hour.
Maybe this story reminds you of a parable Jesus told in Luke 15 commonly referred to as The Prodigal Son or The Lost Son. Like Jarrod, the young man in the story left home with the blessings his father provided in order to pursue his own way. The father didn’t chase him. The father stayed, worked his fields with one eye scanning the horizon, and he waited. I know how that father felt.
To this day, I don’t know where Jarrod went or what he did, but I know what I did. I sat at the bottom of the stairs near the front door, praying, and waiting. I would still be praying and waiting if necessary, as I know some of you are with your children. I learned to trust God more that night.
The prodigal son stayed gone long enough to live a worldly lifestyle and exhaust his father’s money. Jarrod stayed away until the wee hours of the next morning.
The prodigal’s situation in Luke 15 grew dire enough for him to long for home. He realized his pride had caused his desperation, and he ached to become a lowly servant in his father’s house. He practiced the speech he only had the chance to partially give. As soon as his father spotted him in the distance, he ran to him (something honorable Jewish men didn’t do) and embraced him. The once-lost son had changed his heart, returned home, and all was forgiven.
Jarrod never said whether or not he practiced his speech before FINALLY calling home. But it was effective. He knew he’d made a huge mistake and more than anything, he wanted to be back in his mom and dad’s good graces. There were consequences for his actions, but many blessings upon his return. The hug he received when he walked through the door became an object lesson in grace. He knew his repentance had been met with forgiveness even though he didn’t deserve it.
As members of Christ’s body, perhaps each of us could work toward creating more loving and forgiving environments, so that those who’ve chased sinful lifestyles will pay attention to being supernaturally drawn toward repentance and a loving church home – one that’s been watching, waiting, and praying for them. I am not saying we should dismiss the hurt they’ve caused or ignore sin. I am saying our attitude toward them makes all the difference in their desire to return. Jesus modeled our response with the woman caught in adultery when he said, “Your sins are forgiven. Go and sin no more.”
Just imagine how you and I would bless the name of Jesus if we helped His church become known as a place of acceptance for those who might be practicing their homecoming speeches even now!
However, if you’re one who’s been running toward your own desires and away from True Love, just know God waits for you. He’s ready and willing to cast your sins as far as the east is from the west. There will still be consequences, but He’s ready to wrap you in a robe of righteousness, establish a loving relationship with you, and prepare you to make a difference in this world. If you still feel the need to run, run home. Just know, the longer you’ve been running, the longer the return may be. Trust God every step of the way. Forgiveness is worth it!
In Jesus’ parable, God stayed and waited for the prodigal to return. Yet, next week in the gospel of John we will meet an obedient woman who lost her sense of worth and found herself separated from Jesus. For her, Jesus came.
“Love is patient. Love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not arrogant, is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable and does not keep a record of wrongs. Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-7