The Faith of the Prodigal Son

True, the prodigal son is a fictional character. But that fact does not rob him of universal value. For his story was the brainchild of the Son of God, Who said, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6 ESV). In His short time on earth, Jesus did not waste a moment or a syllable. The earthly stories He created and told contain everlasting truths.

You may recall the prodigal as the arrogant, willful younger son who demanded his share of the inheritance before his father died. With it in hand, he  left home for faraway places and wasted every penny on wild living. When he could no longer live high on the hog, he hired himself out as a swineherd, living so low that he lusted for the food the pigs ate.

Then the young man’s faith kicked in. Not, however, the come-what-may faith that would endure anything and everything.

While wallowing in the mud with hogs, he thought about home. The prodigal son remembered that, when he left, his father had not shut the door. Never had his father told him, “This door swings only one way. If you leave, don’t ever come back.”

Realizing that the door to his father’s house swung both ways was the faith that the wayward son latched onto. He could change his mind. He could turn around and go home. So he said to himself, “I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you’” (Luke 15:18 ESV).

In his repentance, the son’s mind scripted that as soon as he saw his father, he would also say, “I am no longer worthy to be called your son. But let me be like one of your hired workers” (Luke 15:19 ESV). That, though, is not how his father would ever think of him, for “while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20 ESV).

The father, beside himself with joy, immediately gave his returning son a top-notch homecoming party, because “this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found” (Luke 15:24 ESV). The son whose fellowship he hungered for had come home, and nothing was too good for him.

When we choose to come home to God the Father, He welcomes us with unconditional love and acceptance.


Father Manifestation

“What’s for supper?” my husband asked, peering into the kitchen. That was never a simple, face-value question. To me it meant I was not meeting his expectations. I wasn’t going fast enough for him. In the escalating self-inflicted irritation, I picked up my pace from sink to refrigerator to stove to counter to the cookbook and back to the stove.

That day my husband must have lingered a little too long at the kitchen bar, because he followed up with another question. “What did you think I was saying when I asked you that?”

With my eyes fixated on stirring the pot, I answered truthfully. “You were saying, ‘I’m hungry. Hurry up.'”

Immediately, I felt my husband’s body beside mine at the stove. “Judy, in our forty-eight years of marriage, I never thought that. Not once.”

How had I been so wrong for so long? Instinctively I traced the problem back to my father. In psychological terms I had been acting in the Parent part of me. According to psychiatrist Eric Berne, each of us is always acting in one of three ego states: Parent, Adult, Child. My husband’s simple “What’s for supper?” had stimulated a conditioning embedded in me by my father. Everything had to be done in a hurry. He could not be kept waiting. Even when he had driven me to a store on the morning of my wedding, my father told me to “hurry up” as I dashed from his car. (I revealed it and other father-influenced “hurry” incidents in Before the Door Closes.)

Whenever I think about having misunderstood my husband’s innocent question for almost half a century, I remember Jesus’ emotional reply after one of the apostles asked Him to show them the Father:  “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9 ESV).

What kind of Father did Jesus manifest? Stuart Townend shared his enlightenment when he composed “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us.”

The Son of God displayed to the world the Father’s sacrifice of love in His quest for a personal relationship with you and me. We cannot choose our earthly fathers, but we can choose God the Father.