One day God bought himself a huge ranch, with a massive house, several barns, and lots of rich, fertile land. It was like a garden. And then God invited his adopted children to move into the ranch house with him.
One of the adopted sons eventually got bored with ranch life. He craved something more exciting. Now being an adopted child of God, this son knew that when God died, he would inherit his portion of God’s wealth (okay, God can’t really die, but this is a made-up story, so please stick with me). Anyway, this son went into God’s study where he found God looking at the newspaper, frowning at what he was reading. The son then demanded his share of the inheritance.
Okay, at this point it helps to understand something about the country where God’s ranch was. The people there had strong beliefs about family. Families were powered by mutual respect and love. And to ask a parent for your inheritance, before the parent was actually dead, was the same as telling the parent you wished they were dead. The society there even had laws intended to punish people who showed such intense disrespect. This greedy son now faced the death penalty. All God had to do was call the police, and the son would be hauled away. But God didn’t do that. Instead, God gave the son what he asked for (yep, I don’t get it either).
So with a backpack full of money, the son took off for the big city – Las Vegas. Many parties, prostitutes, and wild nights later, the son was broke. Unable to pay his bill, he was kicked out of his lavish hotel room. Now he was on the streets, learning what it was like to be homeless… in Vegas.
Eventually, he overcame his resistance to admit his mistakes, and decided to go home, back to the ranch. He figured he wasn’t worthy to be treated like a son (got that right), and decided to ask God if he could just be one of the ranch workers. At least he’d have a place to sleep and regular meals.
He begged enough money to get a bus ticket to a town near the ranch, but not enough for an Uber ride from the bus stop to the ranch. So he had to walk the final 15 miles. Now that was a long, humiliating hike. He really dreaded seeing God again. But his empty stomach pushed him on.
He came up over a rise and entered the long, shallow, grass-covered valley where the ranch house was, still about three miles away. Within a minute or two, he noticed someone coming toward him – it looked like they were running. He was scared. Was this person sent to chase him off God’s land? He was so hungry, and tired, and as he imagined being turned away, he started to cry. He almost fell to the ground, but the little pride remaining kept him on his feet.
He started walking again, rehearsing his apology speech. He really didn’t need more rehearsal – he’d been working on it for over a week. But he felt he needed to keep his mind busy, or he’d start crying again.
He’d practiced all kinds of excuses, but now decided to give them up. It had to be easier to just admit how wrong he was and ask for forgiveness, and a job.
Within a few minutes it became clear that the approaching runner was actually God. Wow, he runs pretty fast for such an old man. But at the sight of God, the sons dread turned to absolute despair. How could he face God again, after telling him he wished God was dead? This was too much. The son collapsed to the ground and began sobbing – any remaining pride left him, running down his cheeks, mixed with tears. In an instant, God was upon him.
God dropped to his knees in front of the son. With one hand, he reached out and gently squeezed the sons shoulder. With the other hand, God lifted the sons quivering chin and looked into his tear-filled eyes. There was no anger in God’s gaze – only love. God then pulled the son to him and hugged him. With tears in his own voice, God said, “My son, you’re alive! I had given you up for dead.”
There were no questions. There was not condemnation, no blame, no guilt-trip. Only love, and forgiveness, and joy. And then, God threw a big party for his lost child who had come back home.
(Blatantly lifted from a story Jesus once told. Yep, the Prodigal Son.)