One of my all-time favorite songs is a Loggins and Messina song called, The House at Pooh Corner.I’m partial to it because of my life long adoration of Winnie the Pooh and all of his friends in the 100 Acre Woods. The lyrics of the song take us back to simpler times, when the most difficult thing to deal with was how to get a honey jar loose from Pooh bear’s nose.
Real life is much more complicated than the amusing trials and tribulations in the lives of sweet Pooh and his pals. Sometimes we wander so far from those simple times we fear we might never ever get back home again.
At one time or another, we have all gone off and done or said things we wish we could undo. In that way, we are all prodigals. Did you know that “prodigal” simply means: lacking restraint? I know I have lacked restraint in areas, and I am sure that you have, too. My husband might say I lack restraint when it comes to purchasing shoes. He might be right. Sometimes, though, our lack of restraint brings us real trouble we didn’t count on. We might not have gone so far as the son did in Jesus’s parable in Luke 15, but we have all decided to go our own way and found ourselves in a mess.
It’s during those times that we have a choice to make. We can continue down the path we have chosen, or we can return home to the Father. But how do we do that? Sometimes we come to believe that we have to stay on the path we’ve carved out for ourselves. This is the choice we made, and pride tells us to press on. That’s just bad information. Home is rarely as far away as we think it is. Returning home requires only one thing. Honesty.
The prodigal son in Jesus’s parable had to be honest. Initially, he had to be honest with himself. Luke 15:17 says, “…he came to himself”. Have you ever come to yourself? I have. Those moments are both trial and triumph. To strip away the lies we have told ourselves and embrace the bare truth about who we really are and what we are really doing, is big time. But it’s the first step in making our way home again.
The second step was all about the father. The son’s plan in verse 18 was to fall at his father’s feet, confess his sin, and beg forgiveness. The second step in the journey back is coming clean with the Father.
For the prodigal, going home and becoming as one of his father’s paid servants, meant he would have to come clean with others. I mean, it’s not like the servants wouldn’t know who he was, what he had done, and what was going on now. People talk. Going home meant getting honest with others, too. That would be the third step in the journey home.
The prodigal son had grown up with everything he ever needed provided for him. I’m sure those in his father’s employ would have traded places with the son in a heartbeat, but the son just could not see his own good fortune. For him, his fortune was out there somewhere, calling to him, and it was that voice that won out. We have all heard that voice before, and most of us have chased after it at least once. We have lacked the necessary restraint that would keep us on the path marked out for us. Some of us have chased that voice for quite a distance, but it really is just three honest steps back home.
The parable Jesus told doesn’t continue past that day of homecoming when the celebration was planned. I wish it did. We don’t know what day two or three or twenty looked like. I’m sure things were different. The son had learned some things, and likely the father had, too, in those days of waiting. I’m sure their relationship didn’t just pick up where it left off, but I’m pretty sure it was better. After all, it was honest and authentic.
Sometimes the very thing that keeps us following that voice of folly is the scenario we have written in our minds of what our homecoming might look like. How could it be okay? The Father couldn’t possibly be happy to see us after all that’s happened, could He? The son certainly didn’t expect the measure of grace his father showed him. How often do we, too, underestimate the love of our Father for us? Pretty often, I think.
We can’t go back to the house at Pooh corner. But there’s a real, merciful and gracious Father who waits without growing weary for our homecomings. No matter how long it’s been, or how far we’ve traveled. It’s just who He is.