By Alyssa J Howard
I was the prodigal son. I grew up in the church. I knew God. I knew the truth. But I still chose to leave home and squander my inheritance.
For those of you who don’t know the story, the “prodigal son” is a parable Jesus told in the New Testament (Luke 15:11-32). It’s a story about a father and his two sons. The younger son asks for his inheritance early, leaves home, and then squanders it on what the Bible refers to as “wild living.” When he’s hit rock bottom with no money left, he realizes that even the servants at his father’s house have a better life than he now had. He returns home with every intention of becoming a servant, but his father welcomes him home with open arms and a party to celebrate his safe return.
Like I said… I was the prodigal son. I knew the truth about God, but I walked away. About ten years ago, disaster struck in my life. I made some poor choices, and everything in my world fell apart. Many of my Christian friends deserted me at a time when I needed them most, and the false gossip followed me around everywhere I went. It was more than I could bear.
Over the course of the next 3-4 years, I wandered. I still claimed to be a Christian, but deep down I was angry. I had spent my entire childhood serving God, and yet He still allowed these horrible things to happen. So what did I do? I left home and squandered my inheritance. By that I mean, I walked away from God and began to waste all of the amazing blessings He had given me. I lived for myself and what made me happy for the moment.
Living for me was the most dissatisfying thing I have ever done. By the world’s standards, I was doing pretty well. I had a college education, a job that I enjoyed, and a place of my own. On the inside, however, I was falling apart. I was lonely, depressed, and insecure. Sure I had some good times and laughs with my friends; but when I was alone, the hopelessness and despair would take over. Every time I would try to make my life right with God, something would get in the way. In my mind, I was too far gone.
Then God intervened…
He sent me a friend. A real one. Someone who had been through everything I had been through. The only difference was that she understood the meaning of Jesus’ parable. Jesus explained it this way:
“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!” – Luke 15:4-7 (NLT)
God used this new friend of mine to teach me some amazing lessons about the true character of God. Not only would He welcome me back, but He would go out of His way to bring me home.
He went after me… I was lost, but He still went after me.
I learned another important lesson through all of this: we are of great value to God. In my darkest hour, the one feeling I could never shake was how worthless I felt. I believed the lies of the enemy as well as the lies of those who chose to gossip and spread rumors about me. I truly believed I had no value. But God, in His amazing and perfect love, showed me otherwise.
God not only forgives us and welcomes us home, but He treasures us immensely. He would leave 99 sheep in the pasture to go after 1 lost sheep.
I was the prodigal son. I was that lost sheep. I was lost, but now I am found.
Bio :: Alyssa J Howard writes about Christian living, marriage, and the joys of motherhood. She is a graduate of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and currently a stay-at-home mom to two beautiful little girls. In her spare time, Alyssa enjoys cooking, running, and spending time with her amazing husband.