The Prodigal Daughter Returns: Now What?

Have you ever heard “The Parable of the Lost Son”? Most of us know it as the story of the ‘prodigal son.’ Spending some time in Christian schools in my early elementary years, I was familiar with the story, but I never really read it for myself from the bible until I was well into my adult life. Do you sometimes feel like the lost son? Or maybe as a parent, you feel for the father, who has lost his child to the world. Maybe it’s the brother you relate with – the unfairness you feel after doing the right thing.

For me, I was, and am, the lost daughter. As I shared in my last post, when my life rounded the corner into adulthood, I reflected on the hand that God dealt to me. Bricks of unfairness, hurt, and bitterness began to build a wall around my soul, protecting what was left of me. I set out on a spiritual journey to find myself. Pride told me that I could do this on my own, and I took my heavenly blessings, turned, and walked away from the hands of God. Like the Lost Son, I squandered all I had within me on things that I thought would bring me pleasure and happiness, but I was left empty – starving for more. Starving for love. The kind of love only our Heavenly Father could provide. Like a wounded animal, broken, battered, and disheveled, I crawled my way back to the Father, hoping the He would still accept me – still love me.

And just as Jesus foretold in the parable, I was embraced, forgiven, and stand before you filled with His love once more.

I just didn’t know it at the time.

Do you know the whole story of the Lost Son? What happens when the party is over?  What happens the next morning? Does his father still love him when he finds out what the son has done? What are the son’s next steps? Jesus never tells us. But I can. For though it is the end of the parable, this is the beginning of my story.

Going back to church was easy. Letting God back into my heart was not. I could literally feel a wall around my soul, keeping out anything that could hurt me – anyone that had hurt me. And in my selfish anger and frustration with the things that happened in my life, I blamed God and His ‘plan’. But my heart ached for His love. I knew that I needed to believe in His goodness, for He brought me my husband and our son. And unbeknownst to me, the Holy Spirit had whispered to my soul that my son needed to know Jesus. So, in a way, my infant son, would lead the first of many lost sheep back to Christ.

We went to church Sunday after Sunday, and God worked on my heart – slowly chipping away at the wall guarding my soul. I listened to the message, and I sang the songs. I spoke kindly of God and Jesus, and read my son Bible stories before bed. For a while I lived the life of a Sunday Christian. Much like in my younger years, I went to church because that was “the right thing to do.” I looked good on the outside: made some better life choices, tried to swear less, and thought of others more. But on the inside, I was still a mess. Still lost. Still untrusting. The emptiness remained.

Sitting in church one Sunday, with my head down in prayer, feeling all the feels as our pastor did the altar call, a voice inside me whispered You need Me. Just let it go. And as a tear rolled down my cheek, I raised my hand, quietly surrendering my soul to the Lord, taking my first step towards home.

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father. (Luke 15:17-20)

After the birth of our second daughter, my husband convinced me to have us join a small group for our family. Being an introvert and extremely uncomfortable with trying new situations, it was hard for me to agree at first, especially since we’re dealing with a environment as intimate as a small group, but eventually I gave in. And God showed up in a big way.

That first night, I found out that the kids would play together while the dads met in one room and the moms met in another. I fidgeted in my chair as one by one the ladies in my group introduced themselves and shared how they had come to Christ. I hoped no one noticed the cold sweats building, and I could hardly concentrate on anyone else’s story as my stomach turned and twisted itself into a gazillion knots. Had I come to Christ? What does that even mean? What would these women think of me if I told them the truth about me and my life? No one is supposed to judge, but come on, everyone judges.

It was my turn. How much of my story would I tell? How deep would I allow these strangers to enter my life. My personal and secret life that I had so neatly tucked away safely in a place where no one, not my husband, not even myself, was allowed to dwell. I took a deep breath and started at the beginning.

Remember I said God showed up big? Well He did.

Even though I couldn’t see Him, there He was. He sat there listening patiently as I unfolded my story – a story I had lived, but never ever told. As the words spilled from my lips, I realized I had no control over how quickly and how furiously my life poured out in front of me. Jesus held my hand as I stumbled over the unfamiliar terrain. The Spirit conducted the ebb and flow of emotions within me. Yes, I had been a Christian all my life, but no, I had yet to experience this relationship with God that everyone talks about. The tragedies that plagued my young life surfaced up and brought with it the tears that I had never cried in front of another. And though I was still cautious and held back from revealing it all, I had allowed myself into a place of vulnerability. Setting my foolish pride aside, I let these women, these sisters, see pieces of my soul.

For the first time in my life, I allowed myself to feel the love of God right there in that room. For the first time in my life, I felt His grace, His mercy, His forgiveness. That night, as He chiseled the wall around my soul, a brick of bitterness loosened and fell deep inside of me. Holy air rushed in, filling every little crevice of my hidden self. And for the first time in as long as I can remember, my soul was able to breathe.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fatten calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast an celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. (Luke 15:21-24)

I inhaled the sweet smell of grace. I let His mercies fill my lungs as a wave of comfort and peace enveloped my soul like never before. And all I wanted from that point on was to know more of Him.

So what did the lost son do, the day after he came home? I can tell you that he probably didn’t sleep the day away. Chances are he didn’t wait to see what banquet his father’s servants would prepare next, either. He awoke the next morning for the first time in as long as he could remember refreshed and with peace in his soul. His heart, refilled with his father’s love, beat to the rhythm of grace, love, and truth. He sought fellowship with his father as they worked the fields together. He told him of his journeys. He shared the good, and some of the bad.

Was their relationship fixed that day? No. There would be lots of work on the son’s part. Not to earn his father’s love or trust, but rather to learn to love himself, forgive himself, and to trust himself in his father’s arms. The father’s unconditional love had already forgiven his son the moment he left home. All he wanted of his son was for him to just BE. To stand by his side and to believe in himself, knowing he is his father’s son, and that’s all that matters. Nothing could change the fact that he was loved and IS loved for all eternity.

Friends, nothing can ever change the fact, the truth, that YOU are loved for all eternity. May the grace and love of God be with you always.

In case you missed it, here is Part 1: Is God for Me?,  Part 2: Who is This “God”?, and Part 3: Crossing the Threshold.

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  1. This is beautiful, Jenn.

    1. Thank you, Robin. ?

  2. So lovely to read. So relatable. So much truth delivered in love. Thank you for sharing your heart

    1. Thank you, Leslie! ?

  3. Hi Jenn,
    I’m a fellow Hope Writer. This post is beautiful! Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thank you, Susan! ?

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