Reflections on Luke 15:23-24
“Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We're going to feast! We're going to have a wonderful time! My son is here — given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!” And they began to have a wonderful time.
Luke 15:23-24 (MSG)
It all happened so fast.
Next thing he knew, he was being swept along to the main house. His father simply couldn’t contain his joy – telling one servant to go, prepare the kitchens, get the best from the flock; and another, to clean and get the house ready for a hundred guests and more; and another to send servants to all their neighbors, then into the town square, to anybody and everybody who could drop what they were doing and come celebrate with his family.
Tell them all, “My son is here – given up for dead and now alive!”
He kept putting one foot in front of the other, his father never letting go of his hand. Was he ready for all this? Really? To face his family? Face all his friends and neighbors? To have this massive party and be the center of attention? How was he supposed to do this?
Each step, a choice.
Out they came – as many as were in the house. And who were they all? His mom, his brother’s wife, his sisters, all the young children who must be his nieces and nephews, his grandparents, the household servants? Cries of joy, happy faces, all engulfing him with hugs and kisses -- just like his father did.
One step in front of the other.
Next thing he knew he was in his childhood bedroom with servants attending him. They’d brought food – real food. And drink. His father’s best robe was hanging on the closet door. One massaged his sore feet, another cut his hair, another had drawn a bath and handed him soap and a towel so he could be --
Downstairs was a buzz of activity – especially in the kitchen. Out his bedroom window, he could see the heifer being gutted and the servants smiling and happy. Everything smelling like home. Everything in its place, like he’d never left. Like what he did never happened. But it did. He knew it. He knew everybody coming knew it. And what would they think, “Look at him wearing his father’s robe after trashing him like he did, after spending his money on prostitutes.”
The shame inside him makes him blush. He wants to run. He wants to stay.
It didn’t take long for the house to fill with all kinds of people and, with it, joy and laughter, music and song, food and the smells of a feast like no other. All he had to do was put one foot in front of the other, descend the stairs, and jump into a sea of people. Each step, a choice, with nobody but him knowing how hard it is.
And then -- cheers! An explosion of applause! All taking him by surprise.
“You’ve made him so happy,” he hears as people greet him. “We thought you were gone for good. But you’ve come back to us!” and “We never stopped praying for you – and for the hope this day would come!” They hug him like his father hugged him. And kiss him. Like they are seeing him as his dad sees him.
Making each step easier and easier.
It would be a long road. He knows that. But today, right now, it’s not his father’s robe that makes the difference. It’s his father himself, his family, and all these people kindly, lovingly clothing him with a sense he hadn’t known in so long.
He feels clean again or, at least, on the way.
* * *
Mid-Saturday morning, Callie texted Erilynne, “I know you don’t look at emails on the weekend. Make an exception?”
“Love to,” Erilynne wrote back, “Out doing errands. Will call or text later.” She couldn’t help smiling. This had to be good news from Callie.
Surprised to see me last night? Me too.
I have so much to tell you. Let me start by saying that your letter was spot on. I have no idea how to be His daughter. Farm-hand, yes. Self-worth back at the pig-sty, absolutely. As far back as I can remember. But see Him running for me? Feel Him clothe me in robes of daughtership? Watch Him call for a huge celebration and make me “worthy” to sit at His table? It terrifies me – all of it.
I’d rather eat with the servants.
So, I made the choice. I started praying like you said, “Lord, help my unbelief.” I asked Him to show me how to open my heart and receive His love for me. I told Him I was scared. I told Him I didn’t know how to do it or where to start. And a few days later, I think He answered that prayer. I knew exactly what to do.
I had to tell Dave.
And so I did. One night, late, I told him everything. The panic attacks, the meds, what it was like coming off them during the pregnancy, the guilt of not wanting the baby – then, blaming myself for the miscarriage. He got so uncomfortable. But I wanted him to hear the whole story. I wasn’t trying to hurt myself. It’s just that I couldn’t handle the guilt. So I took too many pills – I wanted the ache in me to stop. But, at some point, I lost him.
He didn’t want to hear it.
But I kept on going. I went back to my childhood, my low self-image, all the studying I did in college to compensate. Then after we married and had kids, it’s like we built this image together. Him at work. Me at church. Among our friends. And somehow we had this unspoken agreement to keep the image up.
I told him I can’t do it anymore.
“You’ll be fine,” he said coldly.
Image is everything for Dave. I know that. But I need him now. I need him to walk into this story with me and help me rebuild my life. I asked him if I could resign completely from my work at church. But it freaked him out. He got angry and told me not to do anything. We’d sleep on it and talk in the morning.
The next Sunday, he said he wasn’t feeling well enough to go to church. The next weekend, we were out of town. He made excuses for missing the leader’s meeting and the men’s Bible studies. I knew well enough to leave him alone. Eventually I circled back and told him we needed to talk. He said he didn’t want to. So I did what I thought was best. I offered to keep things the way they were. I wouldn’t resign. I’d start up again in a few weeks and that would be that.
He didn’t say anything but I could tell it’s what he wanted.
So, a few days ago, I decided to go to the Friday night prayer meeting in the city and told him. He seemed fine with it but last night, as I got ready to go, he was upset with me and told me it wasn’t safe for me to go alone.
“Then come with me,” I said. “I’ll get a sitter for the kids.”
He hemmed and hawed but finally agreed to it – reluctantly. It was a big step for him and I was glad for it. Well, that is, until the service started. The first half hour was way beyond our comfort zone. Both of us wanted to leave. But at some point, I realized, this was it. This was everything you had talked about.
I needed to open my heart, say yes, and receive what the Lord had for me.
Sounds selfish, but I stopped worrying about Dave. I opened my hands, asked Jesus to come, and surrendered myself to Him. The next thing I knew, there were people praying over me. I was crying. And for that brief moment in time, I felt like I was in His embrace.
As a daughter.
Without any sense of shame.
And I knew the journey ahead would be long. Each step, a choice. But I wanted it more than ever. Somehow Dave must have known that. I have no idea what he thought of last night, not yet, he hasn’t told me. But this morning, out of nowhere, he said he’s fine with it. If I want to resign, I can.
Then he took me in his arms and told me he’d support me. No matter what it takes. Or how long it takes. Can you believe that?
So here I go. One step at a time. Thankful you’re here with me.
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