In Luke 15 we find the story of the Prodigal Father. “Hold up, Shaneen,” you’re thinking. “I know this one, and you’re getting it wrong. It’s the son that’s a prodigal, not the father.” Okay, you’re not wrong, it is called The Parable of the Lost (or Prodigal) Son, but I’m also not going to say you’re entirely right. But we’ll get to that.
The Prodigal Son
Quick recap (or you can go read Luke 15:11-32): A man has two sons. The younger has had a pretty good life but figures he’s ready to set out on his own and goes and demands his inheritance (“Hey dad, you’re not dying quick enough for my taste, so I’ll just take the cash now, if you don’t mind.”). But, instead of giving his son a smack upside the head, the dad says sure, and sends him on his way with padded pockets. The son lives it up, very irresponsibly, and soon runs out of money, just in time for a famine. He gets a job feeding pigs and finally comes to his senses when the pig slop starts to look appetizing. Realizing even his dad’s servants have a better life than he does now, he decides to go back home and beg for a job. He’s got a big speech all prepared and is totally ready to grovel. He heads home and his dad sees him a long way down the road and books it to him. Before the son can even get half his speech out, the father is hugging and kissing him and clothing him and ordering a huge celebration to welcome his son home. The older son is as confused as you and I are about the prodigal son’s reception, but the dad is just happy that his son is finally home.
The Prodigal Daughter
There was a time in my life when I started to make some very poor decisions. I still considered myself a child of God, but I just kind of wanted to go my own way for a little bit. Like the Prodigal Son, I thought a life with my Father was good, but a bit dull, and I would just go find excitement for myself. I thought I was having a good time. I was doing what I wanted, yet I spent much of my time justifying my actions and being miserable about what deep down I knew was wrong.
It was a long process out of the sin and shame that I was living in. When I fully admitted that what I was doing was wrong, and repented of my actions, I spent a long time in the mud with the pigs, wallowing. I was too busy punishing myself to think that I could drag myself back to my Father and beg for Him to take me back.
Then I hit a turning point. I was in a wonderful place of biblical truth, surrounded by caring friends and mentors that didn’t judge me, but helped bring me into freedom. God spoke to me and I realized that I had been punishing myself and withholding forgiveness from myself. He had already forgiven me, so who was I to continue holding my past over myself? I didn’t have to drag my filthy self back to God and try to convince Him that I was worth taking back. He loved me and was already extending forgiveness to me. I just needed to turn to Him.
I also had to confess to my parents what I had been doing. I am so thankful that I have a godly father who is a wonderful image of my Heavenly Father. When I confessed to my dad about my bad choices and behaviour, and how I had disrespected him by going behind his back and lying, I knew he was disappointed. But he never made me feel like he didn’t love me. Honestly, he easily could have just disowned me. He had raised me to be smarter and better than that. But he didn’t. My dad has always been one of my biggest supporters and I am so thankful for the relationship we have.
The Prodigal Father
Dictionary.com defines prodigal as “wastefully or recklessly extravagant” or “a person who spends, or has spent, his or her money or substance with wasteful extravagance; spendthrift”, which I think pretty much sums up our prodigal son. He wasn’t afraid to spend his money prodigally. However, there is another definition of prodigal: “giving or yielding profusely; lavish” or “lavishly abundant; profuse”.
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. – Luke 15:20-24 NIV
You’d think after all that, when the son finally dragged his butt back home, that the father would be standing, waiting on the deck, arms crossed, foot tapping, a frown creasing his forehead, impatiently listening to the whole speech the son had prepared, maybe making him grovel a little bit more before consenting to take him back to the worst job in the house, with the potential to maybe work himself back into the family eventually. Or maybe it would go even worse and the dad would order the son off the property, saying there wasn’t even a chance. At the very least, you’d expect a severe reprimand and some sort of punishment. But not even close! Instead of a harsh reception, we get a warm welcome, with hugs, kisses, gifts, and parties included! The father immediately welcomes his son back into the family, lavishing his love on him in every way he can.
The relationship I have with my dad makes it easier for me to see God as my Father. His actions reveal a good, fatherly love. I know some people have relationships with their fathers that make viewing God as a Father a little scary. But having God as your Father makes you the luckiest kid around, because He is a Prodigal Father. He lavishes us abundantly with His love and good things.
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. – 1 John 3:1 NIV
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out [lavished] on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding. – Ephesians 1:3-8 NLT
God is lavish in his blessings, love, kindness, and grace towards to us. We certainly don’t deserve an ounce of it (at least I know that I don’t!), yet He doesn’t hold back. He takes pleasure in loving us lavishly. Even after my big turning point, this has still been a love that I don’t understand, and even have difficulty accepting at times, but it just goes to show you what a great Father our God is.
Have you had a big turning point or a "light bulb" moment with a part of God's character? Share with me what you learned in the comments!