Having grown up in church most of my life, and being a pastors daughter, a pastor’s daughter-in-law, and married to a man who is planning on becoming a pastor, let me tell you, I have heard the “prodigal son” story often. (If you haven’t-check it out)
You know, the story of a father lavishing his love and grace on his son who had betrayed and made mockery of the household name. You know, the story of the son who had returned after eating with the pigs. You know, the story where the older brother gets mad and throws a temper tantrum.
Well, recently, during a small group, we went over this story again. And, sometimes, when you hear a story so many times you stop listening, perform a mental “roll your eyes”, and discuss the same things that you’ve always discussed. (is this just me?)
But, this time was different. My friend said, “I think that IF the older brother had really known the fathers heart, he might’ve joined in the celebration. But, I think he was so busy working, he had forgot to notice that his father had to have spent hours and hours and hours waiting on the porch for the missing son. He probably would’ve have noticed the many prayers offered up on the younger sons behalf”. gulp.
I also hate it, that I just realized I’m more like the older brother than I’d like to admit. Sometimes, its easy for me to get so caught up in “busy” and “doing” and “life” that I miss the Father’s heart altogether. God’s grace being offered is something that I sometimes take advantage of. I forget how much I need it. I forget the things that moves him to celebration.
So, I left group that night with a new prayer,
“Lord, teach me to be on the porch with you. Teach me how to have your heart, and get rid of the “older brother” in me”
A few weeks ago, during church on Sunday, after worship service had concluded, I was visiting with the people around me. Caught up with a conversation, I didn’t notice much going on in the sanctuary, but I looked up.
Walking down the middle aisle, was a woman I knew.
I had spent months discipling her and teaching her about Jesus. Praying and crying with her over coffee at Shari’s. Then one day she stopped coming and calling. She had left her husband and all of her old life. Changed her phone number, deleted her facebook, and was just gone. My heart hurt knowing that she didn’t feel like she could continue to share her life with me, but I understood that she was deeply wounded in ways I didn’t understand and it was easier for her to shut off from everyone, including me.
But, here she was, suddenly six months later walking down the aisle towards me.
It would have been easy to be mad. It would have been easy to ignore her. She had walked away and ended the relationship, I’m pretty sure I would’ve been justified in feeling that way.
But, God had been preparing my heart for this moment.
I said, “Excuse me” to the person I was talking with. I headed down the aisle towards the woman with outstretched arms.
We held each other in the middle of a sanctuary embracing. She began to shake inconsolably with tears.
Through my own tears, I said, “I am so glad you are here. I have been praying for you every day.”
The she said, “I’ve been wanting to be here for months, but I was worried that I wouldn’t be accepted. That God would be angry or you would be mad. God made me come. He wants me here I know it”
And she’s right, the Father is so glad she’s home. She’s been home every week since so changed by grace and undeserved love from Jesus through me.
Luke 15: 32 “His father said, ‘Son, you don’t understand. You’re with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours—but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead, and he’s alive! He was lost, and he’s found!’” (The MSG)