My name is Sam (we’ll say…). I have an older brother. We get along as well as can be expected, I suppose. We live in an extremely beautiful and large place. I have everything I need. Until…I thought I needed more. Suddenly what I had seen as enough, didn’t seem like it was enough anymore and I approached my father.
I boldly asked, “Father, give me my share of my inheritance now.”
My Father divided up what was supposed to be our inheritance in our future between my brother and I. A few days later, I left home. I took everything that my Father had generously given to me and left everything I had ever known…for something better.
I had fun! I felt like I finally had everything that I ever wanted. I had money and everything else that I had always dreamed of having. Before I knew it, however, I had spent every single penny that I owned. During that time, there was a famine, cutting down the chances of living off anyone else’s expenses again.
Eventually, I convinced myself to get a job at a farm nearby. I worked hard feeding the pigs. It wasn’t exactly glamorous (at all), but at least it was a job! I was hoping that the farmer would give me a bite to eat. That didn’t happen. As I was feeding the pigs, I considered reaching down and eating some of their food. I slowly reached down and picked up the pig slop as I kneeled in the mud. Tears rolled down my face as I realized what I was thinking of doing. I had been so blessed for my whole life! I had never been in need like this while I was living at my Father’s house. Where had I gone wrong?! I knew that I had completely blown it. I mean, who asks for your inheritance while their Father is still alive, and then go and spend and waste everything he had given you?! I dropped the pig’s food on the ground and wiped my hands on my jeans.
“None of my Father’s servants have ever needed more food than they already have. But I am sitting here starving to death!” I muttered these things to myself, trying to figure out what I should do. I was weak with hunger, and I didn’t even want to think about seeing my Father’s face again. I had wasted everything that He had graciously given me. Who was I to go back there?!
But I saw no other option. I thought to myself, “Maybe he would let me be one of his servants. I am no longer worthy to be called his son, but perhaps, I can work for him and he will give me food to eat and a place to stay.” I dreaded that conversation. I played how I thought the conversation would go over and over again in my bed until it tormented my every thought.
On the day when I decided to return to my Father’s house, I shuffled my feet on the dirt road, desperate for a nice meal and a good night’s sleep, but dreading the look of disappointment and hurt that was sure to be on my Father’s face, if he even let me stay there again!
Shame and guilt filled my heart and soul as the place that I had once called my home came into view. I kept my head down, shuffling my feet slowly for a little while longer. Then I heard a shout. I jerked my head up, wondering if something bad had happened somewhere nearby. The shout sounded happy, though. I looked up at the road in front of me and suddenly I saw someone running towards me. He was still a ways off from me, but it was definitely a person. A man. And he was running straight towards me. Confused, I kept walking forward until my fears were confirmed: my father was running towards me! A million thoughts exploded in my mind at that moment. Thinking that this was a terrible idea. Knowing that I was a horrible son, and I had no right to ever ask anything from him every again. More and more thoughts rushed in, and before I knew it I was crying. Sobbing uncontrollably. I stopped walking. I couldn’t move forward another step.
Soon, my Father came to where I was standing. He shocked me when he threw his arms around me and embraced me! He, too, was crying! When he let go of me, I sank to my knees in the dirt and began speaking my rehearsed speech: “Father, I have sinned. I am no longer worthy to be called your son…”
My words stopped sooner than I had planned, when my Father reached down, took my hands in his, and helped me stand up. “Come, son.” His voice was filled with compassion and love. I didn’t understand it. When we arrived at the house, my Father immediately began ordering servants to help me and to give me blessings, which I knew I didn’t deserve. I was confused. I had returned home to become a servant. I had expected my Father to rightfully be angry, no, furious, towards me! He threw a party in my honor; exclaiming “My son who was once dead is now alive! He once was lost, but now he is found!!”
This story says that “while he was still a long way off…” his father ran to him. He loved him. God loves you when you are still a long way off. When you are not where you should be, He loves you where you’re at. He’s looking for you…waiting for you…because He knows that you will return home. It might take some time, but you will come back. Don’t let shame and guilt keep you from coming back, because that’s not the language he speaks! He speaks love, comfort, joy, peace, celebration….He loves you, even though you are “still a long way off”. Go the distance. Run towards him.