Prodigal Daughter

Luke 15:11-32 – The Prodigal Son

Think you know this story by heart? I thought so too until last year when a week of guided prayer, based entirely in scripture, caused me to take another look at it.

The first things that stood out to me were the missing parts of the story. The prodigal son was in a far off land. He didn’t go hang out with a rough crowd on the wrong side of town. He skipped the country with his inheritance. I know what happened next – wild living, ending in disgrace and famine. Next thing I know, he wakes up, smells the pig wallow, and decides to throw himself on his father’s mercy – smart kid.

Now the part of this story that really intrigues me is the journey home. No hopping on Jet Blue for my boy. No, he has a long, hard road home. I don’t get to hear about that part of it. Why? Probably because if I am to see myself in this story, I need to be able to look at my own journey home.

How many times do you think he second guessed his decision on the road home? How many times do you think he tried to find other ways to survive on his own, only to end in failure? I know I would be thinking of anything and everything to avoid going home in disgrace, especially knowing big brother was there to rub my nose in it. I’ll come back to big brother in another posting.

The other piece of this that really stands out to me is this: when he finally makes it within sight of the estate, his father sees him while he is still a long way off and rushes out to meet him. The prodigal son goes through his rehearsed speech, declaring his unworthiness. His father barely hears him, calling to the servants to prepare a banquet, dress him in fine robes, and to put a ring on his finger. After walking all that way in the heat and dust, coming home in rags, exhausted, smelling of swine – was he relieved or ashamed by such an over-the-top greeting? And if you think about it, if the father rushed out to meet him while he was still a long way off, doesn’t it then stand to reason that the father and he walked home together?

For me, I was raised with religion and gained my faith, or so I thought, when I lost my father at fourteen. God in His great love had surrounded me with the people I needed to guide me through seeing my father lose a seven month battle with lung cancer. I knew it was God who provided me with all the love, guidance, and support that I needed at the time but how quickly I forgot.

By the time I was nineteen, I had begun to turn my back on every belief I had once held dear. I began to act like a spoiled brat, deciding that God had ditched me during the year I had spent with an abusive boyfriend and therefore I could do whatever I wanted.

I still went to church. I was married in the church at twenty-two and both of my sons were baptised there, but little by little I quit coming the banquet of love that is the Mass. By the time I was thirty-three, I rarely went at all.

Then my life was upended again. This time, my four year old son was dangerously ill and my marriage was falling apart. I suddenly found I couldn’t pray for myself, not even for strenth to care for my son. I was so undeserving and so unworthy that the only prayers I could offer were for my innocent son, often begging God to listen to me despite my sins.

Finally, after several months of trying to cope with a child on a feeding tube twelve hours a day, the responsibility of changing the tube, caring for my eight year-old son and his needs too, seeing what was left of my marriage disintegrating before my eyes, it was all too much.

On June 16, 2006, at 1:00 AM, I collapsed under the weight of it all. The pain was too great and the darkness crashed in on me. I found myself drowning in every awful thing I had ever done and every awful thing anyone had ever done to me. I was submerged in a most hideous noise that reverberated in the depths of my soul.

I could take no more and I grabbed a knife off the end table in the living room, which had also become my sleeping quarters. I was intent on slitting my wrists. I knew I would spend an eternity trapped in Hell for committing suicide and since I was already experiencing Hell, I knew I didn’t want to stay there. Finally, in desperation, I fell to my knees, knife still in hand, and cried out from the deepest part of my soul for my God to save me from myself. And He did.

I found myself surrounded by silence, wrapped in stillness, and embraced by peace. I rested in that silence, stillness, and peace until dawn. It still took me a long time to find my way back to the banquet of love and even longer to find my way to Reconciliation.

God didn’t wait for me to make it back to confess my sins or even to get myself to Mass. He rushed out to meet me where I was, kneeling on the floor of my living room, surrounded by the shattered pieces of my life, drowning in darkness, knife in hand, about to take my own life. He came the moment I called out for Him.

I was too blind to see that He had been beside me and within me all along, but I know now that He walks beside me and inside me. Most importantly, He will walk home with me, even when I forget the way.

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