Confessions of the Real Prodigal


Could it be that you come with a tender word, even for the likes of me, long steeped in the economy of law and merits of righteousness?

How many times have I stood out on the back step, all too aware of my failings, waiting for my “time out” to be over, when all the time you are waiting for me inside?

How many times have I stared at my own stumbling feet, fearing your furrowed brow of disapproval, when I could have looked straight into your eyes and seen mercy reflected?

How many times have I tried to earn my way, prove my worth, and pass the test? You gave me a playground, and I made an obstacle course. You gave me grace and I rationed it so I would have enough for the next mistake. You gave me a home and I tried my best to be the perfect housekeeper.

But, oh, I don’t have enough rugs to sweep the crumbs under, and I live like Cinderella in the ashes when you are kneeling before me with a basin to wash my feet. Why is it so hard to put down the broom, the score card, the record of my wrongs?

You give love, and I need empty hands to receive it. If it were a wage to earn, I’d work myself into the grave, but it’s an inheritance that’s given on the basis of a family name.

And here you call me little child.

You have every right to scold and berate and throw in my middle name for effect, so I know you mean business. But it’s not business at all, and the only transaction in this whole equation is the one and only life you gave for me so you could give me your name forever.

“All I have is yours,” you say.

No rationing, no interest fees, no conditions.

Pure gift, pure love, pure family.

So I can truly let go of my tarnished earnings and take your hand, come into the house where I will always have a home, be still and know you are Father.

(Luke 15:11-32)



  1. Awesome meditation, Lindsey.

    I always loved the double entendre here in Luke 15, in that the translators used the word "prodigal." In English we've lost the meaning of that word. In French, the verb "prodiguer" (same root word) means "to waste" or "to squander."

    Who really squandered the father's inheritance? the one who took it and spent it, knowing his father was generous … or the one who nickle-and-dimed himself into a lifetime of bondage and resentment, believing his father to be stingy?

    Is it worse to waste gifts or to squander grace? I dare say the latter, because the latter – represented by the elder son – tends to be unaware of the plight he is in, thinking he's "doing everything right" and sees others enjoy the grace and love of God, and comforts himself by saying, "Oh yes… that will wear off." But then he wonders why he feels so empty and burnt out.

    Food for thought.

  2. Thanks Judy, and thanks for adding your thoughts. I think the elder son's heart is in far more danger than the younger son's ever was. As someone who has "grown up in the church" (something that for me has been mainly positive, and for which I'm thankful), and who never ventured far from the path, I wrestle with my own understanding of grace. Comparison with other Christian "siblings" is never a good idea – in this context I really do have to keep my eyes focused on my own experience of the Father and believe Him when he says, "All I have is yours."

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