image credit: Creative Commons Kiss the Lava

The story of the Prodigal Son, from Luke 15, is one of those stories that you’ve probably heard so often that it goes in one ear and out the other.

It’s a story that’s easily taken for granted, filed away in the folder: “I’ve got that one figured out.”

Read it too quickly and you’ll miss its beauty and depth. Check this out:

There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need….But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. (Luke 15:11-14; 17-20)

When the Prodigal son returned home, his father didn’t greet him with a new set of rules and regulations and expectations and guilt.

Because grace doesn’t heap burdens. It releases them. Grace doesn’t tighten restrictions. It frees prodigals to receive joy. Instead of chaining, it loosens bonds. In fact, “grace” says you were in bondage before, and that now it’s time to be free.

Even when you’ve squandered your life. Even when you’ve destroyed relationships. Even when you’ve walked away from those who love you. Even when you’ve done that thing again…and again. Even when you’ve held on to bitterness. Even when you’ve acted the fool. Even when you’ve spit in the face of those who love you the most.

When what you deserve is to be cut off from the family, left out in the cold, and shut out from all blessings. When what you think is coming your way includes condemnation and shame. When your stupidity has landed you in a heaping pile of your own mess, your Father smiles and says,

“You were dead, but now you’re alive. You were lost, but now you’re found. You. Are. My. Son.”

And there it is. God rewrites your story, changes the ending, and gives you a new name.

It’s easy to find ourselves broken by life, by the choices of others, and by our own poor decisions, stuck in a hole we dug ourselves into. No matter how deep you’ve gone, how far you’ve strayed, or how many broken lives you’ve left in your path of destruction, it’s not too late.

Turn back now, and your eyes will meet a Savior running towards you with arms open and full of Joy.

* photo credit: Creative Commons user Kiss the Lava