Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Though We Were Prodigal

Original post date: Sunday, August 27, 2006

Current mood: peaceful
Category: Religion and Philosophy

Though We Were Prodigal

Read Luke 15:11-24

There is a phrase used to describe the instant addiction associated with the drug heroine. It's called "Chasing the Dragon". It paints a vivid picture of the quest for something that doesn't exist. You see, heroine addicts will never get as high as that first high. "Chasing the Dragon" illustrates that first-time rush that lures one into an empty endeavor for that which can not be attained. These addicts are plagued by an empty hope. They are slaves to an unquenchable thirst. And just like these addicts, I have tried to find satisfaction in most everything: alcohol, marijuana, Xanax, Klonapin, Morphene (among other pills), Shrooms, Acid, Cocaine: Ive smoked it, snorted it, free-based it. Ive tried crack, "G", "X", I mean I've done my share. When drugs didn't hit the spot I found pleasure in sexual relationships. But all I was doing was chasing a fairy tale. I was searching for my "happily ever after" - for peace. Ultimately, I became a slave to the fantasy. I was not living in reality. All I wanted out of life was happiness, but instead I was miserable. Drugs offered a temporary escape. I wanted to feel beautiful. I wanted someone to love me, and every time I had sex I felt beautiful and wanted - even if only for a while. The sad thing is that after I had come down off of my high, or after I had allowed myself to be used, I felt just as dirty, just as miserable, and just as empty.

Nathaniel Hawthorne once wrote: "Happiness is a butterfly which when pursued is just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you." Hawthorne compared happiness to the butterfly, and maybe his comparison is the better illustration. After all, butterflies still exist. Butterflies or dragons, the point is the God-shaped hole in all of us. He is the only truth that can fulfill our happiness - our blessedness. See I was living in slavery and I never even knew it. A slave unaware, to my own endeavor. A slave to addiction, a slave to myself, my own will, and ultimately a slave to sin.

Now, in Luke 15: 11-24, the prodigal son is a perfect example of a dragon chaser. We can conclude from the scriptures that he was young. Young enough that he didn't appreciate hard work. He was impatient. He wanted life his way and he wasn't willing to wait on his father. He just wanted to have his fun. His priorities were women and wild parties - oh yeah! Read your bible. Verse 13 says that he spent all of his money on wild living. To me, that implies prostitutes, wine, and no doubt they had other mind altering chemicals in that day. I mean, Opium has been around for centuries and mandrakes are a natural aphrodisiac - an age-old ecstasy! If you don't believe me read Genesis 30. It's an herb thought to aid in sensual desire and conception. Rachel used it on Jacob prior to conceiving Joseph. But anyway

The prodigal just wanted to have his fun. Here's this younger son, who if we put a modern day twist on his character, he still lives at home with his father - who obviously served the Lord with all diligence. I'm sure he felt like his father was just constantly shoving "religion" down his throat. And how could he ever be expected to live up to the same standards that his older brother did - his oh sooo spiritual older brother! Deep down inside, I'm sure he simply wanted acceptance. Im sure the devil told him all the same lies he tells you and me like: your family doesnt understand you, "they'll never accept you", "they're not supposed to judge you, but they are", or how about the infamous "you've got all the time in the world. Go ahead have your fun now, repent later." No doubt he's already had that first taste of fun the world has to offer, and it was just enough to make him desire more. The Bible does say that sin is pleasurable for a season after all. Let's face it, he already knew where he would spend his money before he went to his father. He has taken the bait and so he sets off on his quest for self-satisfaction. He has given chase to the dragon.

And we're all just like him aren't we? We all want more out of life. We all want to have our fun. At some point, we all have set out on seemingly innocent adventures to "find ourselves", to discover what's out there. And there is nothing wrong or condemning in wanting to be happy. The problem lies in where the drive to be happy leads us.

The more I study the word of God, the more I learn to read the white, not just the black. We have to understand the bible not just for what it says but also for what it doesn't say. We are not told how much money this wasteful son inherited. We are not told how long it took him to spend the money. We don't even know how much time he spent with those filthy pigs until he finally came to his senses.

Ive done some digging around, and did you knowa Jew wouldve been unbearably degraded by feeding swine. Also, the owner wouldve had to have been a Gentile since both keeping and feeding pigs were forbidden to Jews. This was considered one of the lowliest forms of employment not only by Jews, but also by other nations. Among the Egyptians for example, the swine herdsmen were completely cut off from society. They were not allowed to worship the same gods or marry even the lowest of the people. This wouldve been common knowledge at the time Jesus spoke his parable. Perhaps Jesus was making use of this fact to show the depth of hopelessness which wild living had brought the prodigal son. It illustrates the misery of sinners in their own wonder lusts ands sins.

Verse 16 says, the boy became so hungry, that even the slop he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. This more than implies that he was inclined, desirous, and even eager to eat the trash that was meant for the pigs. He went into the fields hungry. Which suggests that he was sent without food. Which indicates he was a slave. I mean, this kid was hungry in the natural, but metaphorically, spiritually, he was also hungry for a change. The only problem was that he was lost and away from home. He was without direction. And because of this he joins himself to the lowest person on the social scene - as their slave (which wouldve made him lower than other slaves). Who hasnt been there?

Verse 16 goes onto say, no one gave him anything. Much like sugar cane slaves were beaten if they ate the sugar canes, so this boy wouldve been beaten if he had eaten the slop. It wouldve been considered stealinganother implication of slavery.

Since I began this study, I have pondered why the scriptures even mention that he was given nothing. Does that mean that he eventually found himself begging? Or maybe it suggests that he ate what wasnt his anyway, therefore, taking the punishment? So you see, theres more to this story than meets the eye. So many things are left unsaid.

See, this isnt just about breaking customs or severing family ties. It wasnt just about a boy so hungry he ate some dirty seeds. Its about finding yourself in a place where you never shouldve been. So many things we arent told in this story. We dont really know what event or hardship finally led to his enlightenment. But what we do know is that he had an emptiness - a void - that no matter how hard he tried, it couldn't be filled with anything other than the assurance that being in the presence of his father brought him. Heres this wealthy Jewish kid who never really had to work for anything. He had it all. I mean, his father gave him whatever he asked for. Never in his wildest dreams did he imagine he would one day be in this place; in slavery. He started out chasing a dream only to find a cold reality. Lifes harshness made him realize the hopelessness of the situation and that his previous happiness was gone.

Of all the parables Jesus told, this one is my favorite. I can see myself in these scriptures. I too was once a prodigal child. No, I didnt have money to blow. Instead I wasted all my time on the temporal. All those drugs I mentioned earlier, I managed to do between the ages of 13 to 23. Thats 10 years I couldve been serving the Lord, but instead was serving myself. I was 19 years old when I left home, and I thought I knew everything. My mama knew better though. She didnt agree with me living with a man who was not my husband. She had raised me to know the Lord all my life, but because she loved me with wisdom she did not stand in my way. No doubt her heart broke as she stood by and watched me make one of the biggest mistakes of my life. Much like the father in our parable, she loved me, she prayed for me, and kept an expectant faith that I would return home. Praise God for praying mamas and daddies! And praise God that the story doesnt end in some muddy pit!

Everything went smooth at first. My boyfriend and I worked the same hours so it didnt take us long to develop a routine. We even discussed getting married. I enjoyed cooking and cleaning. It satisfied me to know that just by doing these simple things I could make him feel like a man. I need to be needed, and for a while I felt as though I was.

Until one dayan ex-boyfriend, Chris, called me. Apparently he had gotten the number from someone at my moms house when he called there. And to this day I can only assume that he was never informed that I now lived with my boyfriend. We talked for a brief few minutes. Long enough for me to tell him that yes it was good to hear from him and I would love to catch up but I was seriously involved and I didnt want my boyfriend feeling insecure because of frequent calls between us. He understood and the phone call ended. My boyfriend began ranting and raving about my why Chris had even called. He started accusing me of messing around on him. He wanted to know how long it had been going on. It was a side of him I had never seen before, one that I never wanted to see again. Only what I didnt know then was that I would see this side again - too many times to count. When his shouting session finally ended, he called me a whore and backhanded me.

Ive heard it said if he hits you once shame on him, but if he hits you twice shame on you. Today I say, shame on us both for never putting God first! If we had we wouldve never found ourselves in what would prove to be a loveless relationship. That was the first time he hit me. I believed him when he said he loved me and that it would never happen again. But eventuallyit did, and as the story goesI stayed. Somehow I convinced myself that his deep love for me was the driving force behind each balled fist - behind his anger. Somehow I had convinced myself that I truly loved him. Maybe I did deserve this. Any respect he had for me was utterly lost as well as my own. The mental abuse would far outweigh the physical. There were several times he would stay out all night getting drunk with his friends. When he finally came dragging in he would complain that I hadnt kept dinner warm. In a display of his disapproval he would throw his food on the walls and the ceiling. And I wouldve rather him hit me than make me clean it up. It was so degrading. I couldnt tell you how many times I had to listen to how stupid or pathetic I was, how no one else would ever want me. He threw wild parties on weekends I wouldve rather had no company. He would push me around and put me down in front of his friends. And I say his friends because none of them ever said or did a thing to protest his behavior. He was the first person I ever smoked weed with. That was a few years before we moved in together. (We have known each other all our lives and had dated off and on when I was in high school.). Well, he was now introducing me to drugs like acid, shrooms, cocaine, and crack. You name it, we wouldve tried it at least once. It was never my idea to do these drugs. At least not at first. Most of the time he would talk me into doing them with him. But eventually my misery led to my willingness to experiment. No, he never put a gun to my head (at least not over drugs. Though there was that whole shotgun incident that night everyone was tripping on acid - another blog, another time). I just felt pressured somehow to do what he wanted me to do. I think the only thing worse than an acid trip is an acid trip you never really wanted to take.

Looking back, Im sure it was pride that kept me from getting help or going home. Things only escalated, and eventually I did suggest that we spend some time apart. Maybe I would go to my moms and let him cool off. He wouldnt have it though. He said that he would destroy everything I owned in my absence. And as women do, I had taken great pride in the home I had built and so I would stay when he made his threats. NOW I know that material possessions hold no value when compared against the human soul. But then I had made my life my god, and as you can see it was serving me to no avail.

The abuse would continue for about another 10 months. One morning I just woke up and decided Id had enough and left. I waited until he left for work then I called in sick. I also called my brother and told him everything. He was there within the hour and began helping me pack. By the end of the day everything that belonged to me was gone. Words cant describe his anger. He made all kinds of threats. Most of which consisted of finding me, killing me, and then killing himself. All the same threats he had made when I lived with him. I knew he didnt really want to die. I think he was more enraged because he had lost control of me rather than actually losing me.

Over the next few months, time would prove to be the test. I was back at home in Kingston Springs, but my life had revolved around Nashville. My job was there, my friends were there. Really, I only came home to eat, sleep and do laundry. I often felt the need to escape heartache or to just get away from the religious atmosphere that surrounded my mothers home. So when out with friends, I resorted to the familiarity that getting high brought me.

Its funnyin the past I was always the designated drivernow I was the one leaving the bars to party with strangers. I was always a good girl. I never got into any serious troublenow I was serving an 11/29 probation sentence for the possession of an illegal substance. I didnt like what was happening to me, but at the same time felt helpless to control it. I was at the clubs every weekend. And because of this I was being introduced to new drugs like X (ecstasy). One night I was even given some G - also known as the date-rape drug. Praise God that nothing happened to me. Because there were other drugs in my system that night - X being one of them - I lay past out and convulsing for hours. No doubt the guy who gave it to me would have had his way with me if he hadnt been laying there convulsing all night, too. I know angels were dispatched that night. I cant help but believe they were there in that room with us. I couldve been raped - or worse - dead! I know that God was watching over that young man, too.

Things got to the point that drugs no longer made me happy. Numb maybe, but never happy. People and parties werent fulfilling my needs. I knew there had to be more to life than this, but instead of running to The Rock, instead of running to the God of my mother - the one she had always taught me about, the one who had always seen her through, I ran once again to the familiar foothold of abuse.

Yesmy boyfriend and I had gotten back together. He never left me alone during our separation anyway. I believed the enemy when he said I could never get better. Every time he said I wasnt pretty enough, wasnt smart enough, or good enough I believed the lie. This was the Fall of 99 and we would spend two more years together.

He played it cool at first, but just like before his true colors came shining through. The only difference this go-round was that I had decided I wasnt going to take his crap lying down anymore. I decided that if this was to be my lot in life, if I truly couldnt find better, then I would just have to fight back. I became just as mean and cold-hearted as he was - maybe worse. I can remember one nightI couldnt sleep because of his snoring, so I sat up in bed and punched him in the face (it was about 3am). Of coarse that led to another knock-down-drag-out, which ended in him smashing my windshield and early my nose. Not very wise I knowI just didnt care. My theory wasnt treat others as you want to be treated but rather, treat others as they have treated you. See, when you dance with the devil he dont change. Instead, the devil changes you.

Just like the prodigal son I was searching for peace, but in all my wild living had found none. All I wanted out of life was contentment, but instead I was miserable. Like the prodigal I had a God-shaped hole and I was in desperate need of a wake-up call. Well, the call finally came on September 11, 2001. Heres what I remember about that day:

It was beautiful weather. Calm winds, blue skies, not a cloud in sight. As I entered the office that morning I was met with the news of what had just taken place in New York. My first assumption wasnt that of terrorism; that was furthest from my mind. Someone had once told me that government mandate wouldnt allow two born again believers to operate a commercial jet. It was said that one had to be a non-believer of Jesus Christ. I guess our government wanted to cover all their bases in the event that this whole rapture thing held any truth. And to this day I dont know if that statement is true or not, but I do know that God used it to convict me. Cause you seem, thats exactly what I thought had happenedthat The Rapture had taken place. (I know yall have seen or read Left Behind. LOL). When I paged my mother (because that was the only way to get in touch with her during the day) and got no response, it only confirmed my suspicions. I sat there at my desk contemplating martyrdom. You seewhen those planes hit those two towers it was a wake up call for me. I couldve just as easily been one of those 3,000 plus people who lost their lives that day. I said to myself, ok - thats it - I dont want to live a life of sin anymore. for the first time in my life I had a revelation of who Jesus Christ was.

All the news broadcasts were confirming the terrorist attacks. Eventually my mother did call me back. She had accidentally left her pager at home that day. Once I realized that The Rapture hadnt occurred, that I wouldnt die the death of a tribulation martyr, I began to question myself and God. When I got home that day, I shared my convictions with my boyfriend but he didnt feel the same way. Matter of fact, his words were, youre just trippin. He wasnt feeling compelled by the call to take up your crossbut I wasand everyday it became louder in my spirit. Over the next four days I was in a war of my own. All around me, an unseen, bloodless battle was being fought for my soul. I was waging Gods will against my own. It had become painfully clear that I was standing at the crossroads once again. This wasnt the first time I had heard the call of God. For me, the call seemed to always create a crossroads of the lonely straight and narrow verses the fully populated wide and broad. My answer to the Holy Spirit was always, Not now. You know I love you, Jesus, but not enough to go it alone. Im scared Lord, and unwilling to enter into that gate without a man, without that special someone. Im sorry, Lord, but call me when I have found him. You see, I wasnt getting the big picture. I was never looking at the end of the road. I could only see the path as it appeared for the now. I thought I knew what I wanted. It had always been my desire to get married and raise a family. And thats a fine goal! Im a woman and thats how God designed me. Thats a trait that he instilled in us long ago in eternity past. But I had fixed my goals on seeing that desire come to life. So much so, that I was willing to exchange the path to life for the road to perdition. I willingly settled for less than what God wanted to abundantly give.

And so there I wasstanding at the crossroads once again. Only this time I could see my present path for the highway to hell that it really was. It had finally sunk in that no plan of my own, no desire I had, no husband, no child, no life-long dream was worth hell. It was evident that I had to make a decision for me. I couldnt people please anymore. I took one long hard look at my life and decided I didnt want to live through hell and then die and go to hell! All I knew was: its now or never!

On September 15, 2001 I finally said yes to Jesus! I could no longer concern myself with what my boyfriend wanted from me. After all, I had come into this world without him and I would leave this world the same way!

We tried for about two weeks to make things work. But he finally admitted that he didnt want to be with someone who just wanted to praise God all the time. My response to him was, Well, praise God you dont have to, and our relationship ended at that.

If I had known four years prior that Jesus was the answer, if I had known how valuable I was to him, I wouldve never allowed myself to be mistreated. And I wouldve started serving him a lot sooner, thats for sure!

Praise God I finally came to my senses! And do you know what the first thing I did was? I called my mama. I told her, Mama, Im tired and I want to come home. And just like that she welcomed me back home; she restored me just as the father in the parable of the prodigal. And just as the father in this story told his servants to get the robe, get the ring, get some shoes for his feet, kill the calf, because were going to celebrate. Just like he restored his child to a place of honor, God wants to restore us.

The same God that used a national crisis to bring me to my knees is the same God who restores broken lives to abundance. That same father who gave his son a ransom for many is the same father who took his son from death to life so that we might have life. Hes my God and hes your God, and hes the same yesterday, today and forever! His word says that whosoever would forsake houses, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, wives, children, or lands for my namesake would receive it 100 fold and would inherit everlasting life (Matt 19:29). And today, Im walking in the 100 fold promises of God. No, my life isnt perfect. In fact, I still struggle with serving the Lord as a single person. But Im learning everyday that when we leave the choice up to God, hes obligated to choose the very best. I have new desires that I know he has put in me. Desires to sing, to teach, to give, to learn. I havent lost hold of any life long dreams. No friends, instead the Lord has taught me how to expand them. Hes broadened my horizons if you will. He may not operate on my time, but hes always on time! Seldom early and never late! ALL THINGS are in his hands.

Today I know that love isnt supposed to hurt. In fact, its patient, kind, and long-suffering. Love is not rude or arrogant, and most certainly - its never provoked. Love is dignified and cant be forced. Love would never have me to compromise my convictions or my self-worth. Love is fruitful. And just as the Holy Spirit is a gentleman, so is love. Love is perfect; God is love. And love - true love - has set me free from the bondages of my own will. Today, there are no more dragons I feel the need to give chase to. In fact, I have discovered that along the journey I have become the butterfly. Metamorphosised from something ugly into something beautiful and free.

Because God has taught me to see myself through his eyes, I finally know just who I am. And I am who I am by the grace of God! And most importantly, I like me! Im funny, not bitter. Happy, not sad. Ive got the joy of the Lord in my heart and its spewing over into my life! People can see it! I am a gift to the body of Christand even to the world if theyll receive me! Because of Jesus, I now have self-worth. I know that no matter the mistakes I make, no matter how others may see me, Ill never be worth less to my Father.

So where are you in life? Where are you on this journey? Where are you going? Are you being deceived by the world? Are you settling for less than what God can give? God is very generous with his love. In fact all the love we need is in God alone. He never turns his back on us - never! He patiently waits for us to return to him. And even after we return home we wont be perfect. We will still have hard times. We will make mistakes. But God will always love us and will always want us. Like the father of the prodigal he over looks the mess we make of our lives and he restores us to wholeness. If youre somewhere you know you shouldnt be, please come home. If you dont know Our Heavenly Father as your own, please take the time to get to know him today. Hes just a prayer away. Its as easy as telling him that you are lost and dont know what to do, that youre tired and want to come home. All you need to do is admit that you are a sinner, confess your belief in him as the son of God and as well your acceptance of him as your savior. Be honest with him. Its ok to do that. Actuallyhe prefers it. He already knows what youre thinking anyway. He knows your heart. Tell him how you feel. Tell him about your struggles, then admit that you need his help. I promise that you will find instant comfort and peace that only his Holy Spirit can bring.

Psalm 139:17-18 How precious are your thoughts towards me. O God! They are innumerable! I cant even count them! They outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up in the morning, you are still with me!

Rom 8:38-39 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death cant and life cant. The angels cant and the demons cant. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, even the powers of Hell cant keep Gods love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ our Lord.

Rom 5:6 & 8 When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for usGod showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

That means that there is no place too far that his arm cant reach us. There is nothing weve done that is so shameful that he wont forgive it!

...Though we were prodigal.