Hey there! C’mon over, grab a cuppa something hot and curl up someplace comfy. I want to be really prodigal this year. Sounds strange, huh? Have you ever wondered what “Prodigal” meant? You may have assumed, like I did, that it meant ‘wayward’. After all, the story of the Prodigal Son in Sacred Scripture talks about the young man who forces an early inheritance, then runs off to party away all of his money. (Luke 15:11-22)
It turns out that prodigal means something different. A prodigal is one given to wasteful luxury or extravagance. The prodigal son engaged in wasteful and extravagant living that quickly depleted his inheritance. He was reckless, headstrong and impulsive, with no thought or regard for any possible consequences.
But I see other prodigals in the story. When the son ‘came to’, he came to himself – the end of all that his father had earned, saved, and given to him in his inheritance. No more daddy bailouts. He came down to himself, and discovered there was nothing there. No work ethic to speak of, no wisdom, no character, no reserve. Eventually, out of his pain, he found a small spark of humility that allowed him to get a meager job feeding detested swine. He was so hungry he would have shared their trough. Every day in his painful and impossible situation, he gained a bit more humility. One day, he realized that his father’s servants lived far better than this. He formed a plan to go home. He would swallow what was left of his now battered pride. He would confess fully to his father and then offer himself as a servant. What a change!
With his resolve to follow through bolstered by his acute discomfort, the young man starts down the long road home. His father recognizes him from quite a distance. Here, the story should really be called the “Prodigal Father”. He comes running out of the house and embraces his son with tears of joy that he’s still alive. Prodigal affection. The young man throws himself at his father’s feet, brokenly confesses his sin and asks to be simply a servant of the house. That’s prodigal confession, true contrition. But the father won’t hear of it. He calls for a robe to clothe his son, a ring of authority to put him back into the good graces of the family and the community, and calls for the fatted calf to be killed and prepared for the biggest party ever. That’s prodigal reception. It’s lavish, it’s extravagant, it’s excessive and wasteful in many people’s eyes.
I came across this statement the other day: ‘I am recklessly loved’. God loves us with a prodigal love- a reckless, breathtaking, I love you forever no matter what, kind of love. How lavish and excessive was it to send His own Son, Jesus, to earth- to be born as a helpless baby and then to grow up human, only to give His life through one of the most brutal and tortuous styles of execution ever devised. How reckless was that? Knowing full well that many would reject His overtures, some would defy Him, some would deny His authority. How excessive was that love, knowing that we would sin, rebel, miss the mark, be so full of ingratitude and completely miss how serious sin is? But God knew something else – He knew that this extravagant, prodigal love would be the stuff that might win our hearts and woo us back to Him, and would be the foundation for building our love toward Him in return. It gave us a pattern to follow in love – for God, for others, sometimes even for ourselves.
I want to be a prodigal daughter – in the sense that I want to give Him every bit of worship and honor and love that is in me. Not just once in a awhile, but a s a lifestyle. I want to worship as the ancient Jews did – with my entire body, soul and mind. I want to lavish my time on Him, my emotions on Him, my obedience to Him, my possessions and money all for Him. I want to live for Him, not unwisely, but recklessly – unquestioning obedience, no thought for any consequences of that obedience. No worries about what other people might think or say. That’s the ultimate dream for my relationship with Him. You wanna come with me?
But… maybe you’re more like the son in the story, and don’t know how to get back to the Father. Believe me, I’ve been there. Go find a pastor or priest. Just tell them your story, and let them pray with you and for you. It’s really that simple. Then you can come with me.
Let the adventure continue!