Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two songs. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

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.

Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come’, he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of your who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

‘My son’, the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’
— Luke 15:11-32 NIV

identifying with the sons

It’s likely that at some point, you’ve heard this parable especially in relation to people coming to know God for the first time. I’ll be honest, I’ve heard this parable so many times that when now it’s used in sermons, I sometimes zone out. But I noticed something I hadn’t before. There are several verses in the bible about God being the Father of orphans, but this passage isn’t one of them. The prodigal son actually already knew his father and knew he was a son and then he left.

Maybe you’ve never dealt with doubt in God before - I pray that you never have to. But for a lot of us, at some point in time, we’re going to wonder, “What’s the point of all of this?”. It’s interesting, because I find myself being both brothers over and over, almost as if being one brother leads to becoming the other if I’m not careful. For me, I think the cycle usually starts by being the older brother, actually. I slave away for God, hoping to impress him and earn my keep in his house. I do all of the things I think I’m “supposed” to do, and eventually I see someone else get what I’m working for without even trying. I ask, “Why am I doing all of this if You’re never going to deliver me from anxiety? Why am I serving you if people who don’t even know You look happier than me?” 

This usually leads me into becoming the younger brother who gets frustrated and says, “Just give me my life and let me go do what I want to. You’re not making me happy anyways!” Eventually, I think I begin doing what the prodigal son does, rehearsing what I’m going to say to the father when I see him to convince him to let me come back. I tell him I’ll do whatever he wants me to, I’ll serve Him however he wants. So then why don’t I end up like the prodigal son in this story? Back in the Father’s arms forever? 

end the cycle

It’s because I won’t accept the Father’s embrace upon my return. I don’t let God have compassion on me and kiss me and love me. Instead I choose to begin the cycle again and to start working to earn His love and return to the older brother who “is always with [God] and everything [God] has is his” but who won’t accept it.

God won’t let you replace His love for anything. It’s the one and only thing that will transform you into the son who is forever in the Father’s arms.

pray

God, let these revelations hit my heart. Let who You are as a loving Father light up my life. I humbly accept your love for me.

-Michele Houston