Matt and Jesika share how their stories are familiar with the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15.
A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, “I want my share of your estate now before you die.” So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.
A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.
When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, “At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’
So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.”
But his father said to the servants, “Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.” So the party began.
The prodigal son reminds me a lot of someone . . . me. I was born in a Christian home, but when I became older the world started to get a hold of me. Drinking alcohol became part of my lifestyle, drugs had a firm grip on me, and my friends reassured me all of this was just being human. I was independent and wanted a life of my own without God. I ran away from Him and towards sin. My boyfriend and I moved away to San Antonio so I could make something of myself. After years away from God, I came to an awkward point in my life. I was about to be the first college graduate in my family, I had my dream job waiting for me, I had a great boyfriend, with a nice apartment, and a new car. The American dream was at my fingertips. But I still felt like I was missing something. That’s when the Holy Spirit whispered to me something I will never forget, “But you don’t have Me!”
Around this time, God was working in Matt’s life. But we’re not done with the story of the prodigal son. The story continues with another key character in the story in verse 25.
Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, and he asked one of the servants what was going on. “Your brother is back,” he was told, “and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.”
The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, but he replied, “All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!”
His father said to him, “Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!
The older brother in this story reminds me a lot of someone I know . . . me. I was born and raised serving God in church. On the outside, I was the model Christian. I didn’t smoke, didn’t do drugs, didn’t drink, didn’t have sex with girls, and didn’t even curse. I attended church every week, served in ministry, and lots of people looked up to me. But on the inside, I was a wreck. I had secret sins, a lustful heart, I was arrogant, and had major pride issues. I was judgemental and legalistic towards others while keeping my own sin behind closed doors and justifying every bit of it. I thought I was better than everyone else because of my outward appearance. But then I began to hear these echoes of the story of the prodigal son and God whispering in my ear, “You’re not as good as you think you are. You still need a Lord and Savior. Come to the table. Everyone’s invited. Including you.”
I remember listening to a sermon podcast, and the preacher was talking about singleness and dating, and he mentioned one thing that stuck out to me. He said, “Stop worrying about your future spouse and start praying for them. Right now, they could be in club and having no desire to follow God. So start praying for them.”
After going to the club, doing drugs, and getting drunk many nights, I took an aerial view of my life and saw myself where the prodigal son saw himself. It had been years since I heard the voice of God, so I didn’t know what to do when He called me. After all, it was hard hearing any type of voice when you’re in the club every night.
I broke down because as I was achieving the “American Dream,” but I felt just as empty and unhappy. And when I reached out to God for the very first time in a while, what did He do? He threw a celebration! He surrounded me with amazing friends, my family forgave me, I found happiness again, but it was different this time.
Through a process of discovering what it truly meant to follow Jesus, my life started to change. God revealed to me the dark corners of my heart that I thought no one knew about and He slowly began to make me into a new creation. There is no such thing as a good person, just a good God who makes us like Him through obedience.
In the story we started off with about the prodigal son, I think you can see that the father represents God. The prodigal son is Jesika’s story and the older brother is my story.
This story is our story because God extends grace to all who come to Him, no matter where we come from. He found us at different places in life and pursued us with His unending love. And because of His grace, He brought Matt and I together for a beautiful life and marriage. We hope that all of this can point to who’s at the center of our lives – Jesus!
He loves us and is preparing a place for us to be with Him.
So if you find yourself feeling like you’re running away from God, or living behind a facade, God will run toward you with His arms of forgiveness open, and make room for you at the celebration table.