Sunday, February 8, 2009

Who is the Prodigal?

This past week, I was asked to sing in a church service. The song that I ended up singing was called "Come As You Are". In it, the song refers to "prodigal daughters and sons". This isn't a revolutionary idea to put into a song, and it's a pretty familiar passage of Scripture so it wasn't a groundbreaking song. I spent the longest time misunderstanding something, though. I always thought that prodigal meant lost or wayward. It turns out that prodigal means something completely different. It actually means wasteful. I know that the Bible never actually uses the word prodigal, but it's worth noting because this word is tied closely to the parable of the lost son.
I've known what that word meant for quite some time, but as I was singing this song one morning to get ready God connected the dots in my brain in a way that I never had before. The fact is I had all of the information and was either unwilling or unable to put it all together. I always viewed this song as a call for sinners to come to repentance. I never applied this song to me. That's because I missed an important element of the lost son parable. I tend to focus on the aspect of the son being lost so much that I fail to apply it to my own life on a regular basis. At some level I understand and accept that my sin put me in a far country and that only the grace of God has allowed me to come home. But that's history - I mean, God had redeemed me and called me his own. I'm clearly not the prodigal son that this parable speaks about. Because of that, I quit listening to what the story (and the song) was speaking to me.
As I was driving in the car, God broke me. I understood what was being said to me. The son wasn't called prodigal because he went to a far country. He was prodigal simply for leaving the Father's house. The far country wasn't the problem. The problem was the son's reckless use of what was given to him by his father. I like to say things like "I haven't been a very good steward" because it minimizes and softens what I'm really doing. The plain truth is that I have been wasteful. God has poured into me and I have, in many cases, let it spill onto the floor. How many wasted blessings litter my life? Blessings God intended for my good, for my deliverance. There are too many to count. It's an embarrassment just to consider it.
Still, I serve a faithful God. In spite of my prodigal status, my Father still runs to me when I return home. Not for a moment have I deserved to be called his son. But that doesn't matter one bit. My standing in his family is unmerited. Because I didn't earn it, nobody can point out to the Father why I shouldn't have it. My membership in the family is based entirely on my Father's decision to adopt me. I'm in his family simply because he says I am. There is no depth I will find that will disqualify me. "How great is the love the father has lavished upon us, that we should be called sons of God" I love that word "lavished". In spite of all I've done, my Father's arms are open wide to me. His love for me is unmeasurable. It defies description or understanding.
And I love it.
This prodigal son has a prodigal father.

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