I lack ambition. With my age and skills, I should have taken my talents a long time ago to South Beach and found ways to make tons of cash. I figure at this point in my early thirties, I should be in the mid-six figures for annual income. If I just had the drive and willpower…
Back in late 2006, I thought I had what it took to get there.
There wasn’t an investigation or wrongdoing or anything—not even jail time to scare me straight. I just realized that at the highest point of my career and life, with everything looking up and seeing new ladders to climb, I was miserable. Not dissatisfied or needing new scenery, but practically hating everything that was supposed to be a trophy. That’s when I heard, “Happy now?”
I don’t think God was mocking me or laughing at how I was reacting. I had decided I would be in charge of my own happiness and God could play second fiddle to my first chair, Ego. Once I had gotten what I wanted, was I really that happy with it?
In hindsight, God had given me what I desired, even though He knew where I would arrive.
The Prodigal Son was like that: “Give me what I want, Dad!” Even though it was his inheritance and his father had earned it. “I don’t need you anymore, I’m out of here!” Even though his safety, security and every need had been provided under the provision of his father.
But his father let him go to his destruction, to his failure, and to his despair—and with a fat wallet, too. The kid wanted to go off on his own and do his own thing. I think it’s safe to assume he wasn’t building hospitals or writing sermons with his newfound wealth. I think his father knew what the kid was going to do with the money and freedom too, but he gave him what he thought he wanted. Even if it was going to hurt.
That’s because the hurt is temporary if the reaction is right.
God knows His kids may want things that aren’t good for them, but they may have to get the consequences to see that He is right.
“But God she’s hot!!! I know she tends to lie and cheat on me, and she has a general disregard for my well being, but if you just let things work out I know we can have a healthy relationship!”
“I know I have this pull on my heart toward ministry God, but think of how many missionaries I can support if I make millions of dollars!”
There are a hundred other similar phrases people say every day and they always end badly.
There’s a big difference if the reaction is denial.
The Prodigal Son was at rock bottom as a direct result of his own decisions and choices. He had arrived at the perfectly logical conclusion. His father didn’t want him to be there. He didn’t enjoy that his son was going to have to go through that to understand, but his son didn’t understand how good he had it in his father’s house.
It would have been unthinkable for the Prodigal Son to be standing in the mud, crap and slop and say, “I think things are about to turn around! Sure, things are a bit rough but if I keep at it, I’ll have a bacon factory in a few years!” He was starving and destitute, no need to add delusional to the mix.
Humbling himself was the right reaction.
Thank God, He let me see that I was headed for feeding pigs before I got too far. I changed course after having to admit God is a far better decision maker than I am. But He gave me enough of what I wanted in order to see the pain I was causing myself and the truckloads more that was in store.
Admitting you’re wrong may not be easy, but God always reacts the same way as the Prodigal Son’s father did – with joy and celebration.
The fresh wounds may not feel joyful at the time, but learning the lesson of God’s character is far too profound to be resented.
For me, I have a reminder to keep me at the ranch. I went off on my own and it wasn’t good, so when I start to take those first steps down the driveway, I remember where that road led last time and turn back around.
*Photo credit: Ionics