What Makes Someone a Prodigal?

Image courtesy of Sommai at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Sommai at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” Luke 15:21

Not every wayward child qualifies as a prodigal.

That’s a hard pill to swallow.

I’ve written about my daughter a few times in relation to the prodigal story. I love and pray for her, and as the father in this parable does, I watch for her to return. The difference between the parable and her situation is how the child returns. My daughter has come home or asked to come home a few times, but she never has come back stating the words expressed by the prodigal son in Luke 15:21. She still wants a handout. She still wants acceptance and a place in the fold as if she’s done nothing wrong. That is not a prodigal’s return.

Although the story of the prodigal son gives us hope when we have a wayward family member, there are some significant points we must remember.

  1. Jesus told this story to explain how God greets the repentant sinner. He rejoices when a sinner turns away from sin and acknowledges his mistakes, not expecting a return to the position he had before. The beauty of this repentance is that God does give him that position of honor. He does not become less in God’s eyes because of his mistakes.
  2. The son realizes his mistake and returns but not expecting to step right back into the life he had. When she turns from her sin, she should do so with the realization that she deserves nothing. God will give her everything; she will become His daughter, but she must understand that this is His grace to give, not her due.
  3. This story is about who needs salvation. It’s not about the children in our lives who wander away from our family’s fold, although they do need salvation in most cases. Can we still apply it in that way? Sure, but we must remember that the parable was a response to who Jesus ate and socialized with:

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus.  But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Luke 15:1-2

Why am I taking the time to explore this? Because my daughter has not qualified as the prodigal child. Yet. Her words and actions tell me she hasn’t accepted any responsibility for her life choices. She still wants me to bail her out. I can’t. I’ve actually tried that only to lose her again.

To be a prodigal, the person must accept his own responsibility in what drew him away. She must turn away from the life she’s fallen into. He must take the steps necessary to leave the poor life choices behind. She must show her heart in a way that tells us she is the prodigal come home.

Houses Divided at Christmas

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Many people suffer from depression during the Christmas season. Some are experiencing their first Christmas after a loved one has died. Others worry about the family dynamic on Christmas day–Will Uncle Ralph pick a fight?  Will Cousin Sarah get drunk? For others, the limitations of getting everyone together can create stress and disappointment.

Anyone who’s divorced with children knows the heartache of Christmas. Where will the children be? How do we divide up the time? As the children grow up, marry, and start their own families, it becomes even harder. Which family will they spend Christmas with? Who will we have to leave out? Add to this married children of divorce who have married a child of divorce, and the problem is staggering.

Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three… Luke 12:51-52

Even though these verses don’t refer to this specific situation, this is another example of why divorce is not God’s plan. We are facing it, ourselves. After many years of Christmases with most of our family gathered together, we’ve hit an interesting crossroads. One child is saving her money to come home for a wedding in April, instead. The others are headed to various family members’ homes, just not ours. Aging parents can’t make the trip.

I know Christmas is not about who is where. It’s about the birth of Christ, and the world’s awareness of God’s gift of salvation. It’s a time of blessings.

But it’s also a time when families gather together.

So, we will be trying out new traditions this year. New ways of approaching the day. On the plus side, we won’t have to rush to get dressed and get the turkey in the oven before family arrives. We can take it slower. And we will see most everyone over the next week. We get a prolonged Christmas.

Someone you know is facing a Christmas alone or separated from loved ones. Reach out to them, share with them your lives, and, most importantly, share the story of Jesus and the hope he brings.

 

Life: Not A Bowl Full of Cherries

When I remarried, I hoped for smoother roads, but life is not a bowl full of cherries, is it?Roaring Lion

Life doesn’t work that way.

Or have you noticed?

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

I’m not trying to be a downer. I loved my expanded family with a new husband and three step-children, but life goes on.

In this world, we will have trouble. It’s that simple. My biggest troubles at the time came from my job. I was working in a great program helping a lot of people straighten out their lives, but Satan looks for any opening to attack.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  I Peter 5:8

Just before I started my new job, the President of the organization announced to his staff, “I’ve hired someone for this position, and she’s white.”

Since this was a primarily black organization, the comment ruffled feathers. Not that I was white, but how that was introduced to the staff.

One employee stressed over not being part of my interview process. She had nothing to do with my position, but she thought she deserved input.  Add this to the unfortunate way our boss announced his employment choice, and we have a formula for hate. At first, she pretended to befriend me. I soon realized her motives were not amiable, and I backed off.

She changed tactics, turning tattle-tale, looking for any possible misstep.

Everyone in the organization knew she didn’t like me.

I discussed this with the head of the organization several times, and he advised me to give back what I received.  As a Christian, I couldn’t do that. I turned the other cheek.

I can’t claim with certainty that she was behind the erroneous complaint filed by a customer, but most people believed she was.

A client called to complain that I had told them they didn’t qualify for my program and then had hung up on them. When people didn’t qualify for my program, which happened often, I referred them to other service agencies that could help. I never left people without an option, and I never hung up on a client.

I learned the customer was a plant. Without using my connections outside of work, I never would have been able to prove to my manager that the caller was lying. Thank goodness, I could prove it.

This world is not our home, and we are continually bombarded with problems. Without my church and my husband, I know this attack would have hurt much worse, but we know we are given what we need and never challenged beyond our capabilities.

Has your integrity ever been questioned? How did you respond when your life turned upside down thanks to another person’s jealousy?