The Prodigal

I’m a little tired today, but it’s still early. There’s a chill in the air, so I’m out here enjoying the chirping of the birds while wrapped in a blanket.

The cool weather has me wishing I was running. With the breeze and the sun, it’s my favorite weather to run in. If I didn’t have neighbors so close on each side I would be doing my exercises out here on the deck. Maybe next year I’ll be old enough to not care, but I’m not there yet.

This morning I was reading Luke chapter 15, the story of the prodigal son, and it reminded me of the ridiculous choices I made way back when in my prodigal days. I also read as part of a devotional reading plan this morning about how we often relate to God in a similar way to how we relate with our earthly fathers. And this led to a strong desire to share my prodigal story with you kind readers. So, here goes.

I was a straight A student in high school, with the exception of that B in gym. I was a well behaved child, mostly. Not necessarily because I was good hearted, but more so that the other kids at school wouldn’t judge me and call me a hypocrite. So when I tossed that graduation cap in the air, I felt like I had been released from the judgment. I could experiment with the world. I wanted to explore. I started saying yes to the party invitations.

Prodigal: “spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant”

That summer, while still living at home, I did a lot of heavy drinking. I discovered a lot of things, like how my friends were acquiring liquor, and also that my body does not like rum. Since I had turned 18 earlier that year, I was able to legally buy cigarettes, so I started smoking too. Menthols, because regular cigarettes were nasty. (Who was I kidding, right? They’re all nasty.) It was a fun summer, but it was mostly regrettable for all the lying I did to my parents.

When I went off to college that fall I thought I had gotten the rebellion out of my system and I could move forward. Famous last words.

I lived in the dorms, down in the valley. I had to walk quite a ways to get to class (up hill! Both ways! In three feet of snow!!). During this time period I was dressing like a dime store punk – greasy hair, long baggy bell-bottom pants, polyester shirts. I kind of wish I had pictures, but we didn’t have digital back then. My new look must have attracted the wrong people because I was befriended by John, who also lived in the dorms. I’ll never forget this conversation: we were walking to class and talking about music and I was telling him how much I liked Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd and he asked me – “Oh, do you smoke?” I thought he meant cigarettes, so I quickly answered yes.

And that, my friends, is how easy it was to get started smoking marijuana. This was the beginning of the end of my college experience. I was introduced to pot and as it turns out, I loved it. So much so that I was smoking it all the time. I was sleeping too late, missing class, being a total jerk to my roommate, and doing questionable things I thankfully can’t remember. This went on for months. When our grades were posted and I saw that I was getting C’s, I gave up. I had never in my life gotten C’s, so I couldn’t see any way to come back from it. Without a word to anyone, I went to the registrar’s office and dropped out.

My mom lived in the same town, so I told her first. She graciously allowed me to move my stuff into her dining room and sleep on a cot until I could secure a more permanent space. I don’t remember how long before I told my dad, but I remember we were in a movie theater, waiting for a movie to start. I told him I had dropped out of school, and instead of being angry at me for throwing away my future, he told me he loved me and gave me a great big hug.

I still can’t really describe to you how much these gestures of grace and forgiveness mean to me, even to this day. I trusted I could count on my mom to accept me, but I had expected condemnation from my dad. I expected disappointment, yet I received unconditional love. I was the prodigal son, and he welcomed me home with open arms. He didn’t throw me a party, but he may as well have. That hug was something special. It was a gift that gave me the strength to move forward with my life. To pack up and move on.

Genesis 12:1 (NIV) “The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.”

I spent several months living in an apartment with a couple of my brother’s friends from high school, and eventually (miraculously, perhaps) rededicated my life to following my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. God met me on the kitchen floor with a dusty Bible one morning and called me to move to Lansing. It’s where I’ve built so many cherished friendships, and it’s where I met my husband and we are raising our family. It’s where I later learned that my great grandparents built a home and raised their children (my grandfather and great aunt). My grandmother even graduated from the same high school my husband did.

So the miracle that happened here, the end of this story, is that God saw that door I slammed shut with my stupidity and opened a window to a new life, a better life. He welcomed this prodigal daughter back home and threw her a party.

Have you slammed any doors shut in your life? Is God trying to show you a window to something better? Maybe it’s time to dust off that Bible, grab a cup of coffee, and search for it. Pull up a chair and sit with Him for awhile, He’s waiting to show you. If nothing else, He wants to give you a big party-sized hug.

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