Carry On My Wayward Son

Who doesn't love a good redemption story?  We have all done things we are not proud of and we need to believe that we can all be redeemed no matter what.   And one of my favorite stories (and you do not have to be the slightest religious nor spiritual to appreciate it) is the story, “The Prodigal Son” (Luke 15:11-24).  Again, it is not my intention to have a religious discussion at all.  My intent is only to tell you things/stories that I have found helpful.  

So basically it is a story of a rich man’s son who takes his share of his father’s estate, selfishly squanders it away, finding himself homeless and starving.  Then when the young man “came to his senses”, he decides to go back home to beg his father to be one of his servants.  But on his journey home a long way out his father saw his son coming home.  The father ran towards his son, hugged and kissed him, refused to accept none of the son’s self pity, and then proceeded to throw a celebration party that he had returned home.

We have all lost our way at some point.  The son can represent any one of us making such poor decisions that we lose everything we ever had and loved.  The son basically reached what is called “rock bottom”.  And in that pen where he was eating the pig slop to survive, he made a different decision – one finally for the better.  But t required something on his part.  He had to admit where he was and that he needed/wanted change.  He had to be humble enough to say “I am not perfect.  I have made mistakes that led me here to this point.”   Lastly, he needed the courage to take action to do what was necessary to make things better for himself.

I can imagine him making that long walk back to his old home.  Penniless, dressed in dirty rags, smelling like pig filth, starving, embarrassed, ashamed, expecting his father to scream (or worse), and expecting everyone else would point and laugh at him.  But the father in this story is the representation of God (or if you like Unconditional Love).  He sees his son a long way off, which means he never stopped looking for him or waiting for him to come home.  His father runs to his son, hugs him, kisses him, and would not hear that his son deserved nothing less than the best.

This is the vision I have of God.  Unconditional Love is the acceptance of this father in the story.  We all have free will and the right to make our own decisions: right, wrong, or indifferent.  God is not there to make decisions for us.  You need to decide where your life will take you – that is true freedom.  Sometimes our decisions lead us to great things and sometimes they do not like this Prodigal Son.  Sometimes we expect (like this son on his long walk home) that we will never receive acceptance because we can hardly accept ourselves for the things we have done.

If you are religious or spiritual I will tell you that God (well the one I know and love) is like this father always looking for you if you have lost your way.  He won’t stop you if you want to go, but you are always welcome back with open arms.  

If you are not religious or spiritual, I will put it this way . . . Redemption and unconditional love is possible with others and yourself.  You may be surprised.  In my life I have witnessed first hand unconditional love and acceptance for things I have not been proud of, even though my own shame tried to talk me out of reaching out.  It is a huge risk to open to up to people (and even to yourself), not unlike this Prodigal son taking a risk to go home.  But if you are like the Prodigal Son in this story right now, I will tell you that no matter what situation you are in you can turn it around for the better at any time.  Do like the son, admit you want change, admit you are not perfect, allow that additional mistakes may happen, most importantly make better decisions that actually work for you, and take that risk.  Even if you feel you have no one to turn to but yourself, work on loving, accepting, and being compassionate with yourself at least - keep moving forward and you will succeed!

And because I was born in the 70's, this title of this article is a song by Kansas that always reminded me of the Prodigal Son story...


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