Was that prodigal son really filled with remorse? Just how genuinely repentant was he anyway? When I read the parable of the prodigal son, it strikes me that this young man might not have been as eaten up by his guilt as I had always thought. Somehow, all my life, I subconsciously saw the restoration of this father/son relationship as hinging on the son’s repentance.
But really? There he is — sitting and starving in a pigpen when suddenly it dawns on him that there’s a better way to assuage his hunger. He decides to seek a servant’s position in his father’s house. He knows his father is a generous man, and even his father’s servants are treated better than he is right now by his current, uncaring employer.
I’ll get up, go to my father, and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired workers.”Luke 15:18-19 (CSB)
So off he goes, towards home, rehearsing his spiel the while. Did he really feel contrition for all his wickedness? Maybe. But a case could be made that he was just driven by desperation.
Perhaps it was the unexpected, exuberant welcome he received from his father that finally began the work of softening his heart. That’s really what his restoration hinged on — the unlikely grace of his father!
…while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him.Luke 15:20 (CSB)
Can you relate? I sure can. If the choices you’ve made have landed you desperate and at a dead end, get up. Make your way back toward your Father in heaven…even if you don’t have all the “feels” that you think necessary for repentance and restoration. Stand up, and walk out of the muck of your pigpen and start heading home. The Father is waiting and watching. And it’s His lavish love and gracious welcome that will do the work of healing in your heart.
God’s not asking you to muster up a certain level of penitence before you arrive. He’s asking you to simply take that first step of faith toward home. Even if you’re “a long way off” He will see you. He will meet you! And the celebration once He brings you home might be the very thing to reach deeper into your disordered heart than any resolution you could make in your own strength!