“Mom,” a certain father said to his wife, “John is leaving.”
“What?” she answered. “Why?’
“He says he doesn’t want to live at home anymore. We have too many rules, and he doesn’t want to be a farmer. He wants his inheritance now.”
“Are you going to give it to him?”
“I guess so. He’s going to leave, and I hate for him to go with nothing.”
Soon John left for Hollywood. He was surprised by what things cost — airfare, taxis, motels, restaurants. No matter, he had money. Finding work was difficult. One guy told him they didn’t hire “hicks.”
Finding friends was easier. Just buy the drinks; pick up the tab. Still, he got discouraged. A girl gave him a joint to make him feel better. The first joint was cheap, but they kept going up. With no money coming in and everything going out, he soon couldn’t afford his lifestyle. His “girl” split. He finally got a job washing dishes in a restaurant. When they caught him eating off the returned plates, they fired him — something about liability.
At last he admitted to God and himself, “I’ve messed up.” He decided to go home. He asked God to help his Dad forgive him. The ride John had hitched let him out a long way from home. Funny, his Dad saw him immediately — guess he happened to look that way. John got a lump in his throat as his father drew near. Would he say, “Told you so? Hope you’ve learned your lesson.”
No, he said, “Welcome home. Your room is still ready; Mom checked the bed every day. Let’s party!”
John’s older brother, Micah, was bitter about John being in Hollywood, having fun, living with starlets and leaving all the work for him. When he learned of John’s return and the party, he was livid. He wouldn’t join in. He sat on the back porch and pouted. When his Dad tried to talk to him, he shouted, “Look at all I’ve done for you and Mom, and you never gave me a party.”
“Maybe not, Micah,” the father answered, “But did you ever doubt we loved you? We thought you were happy. If we neglected you, I’m sorry; and we’ll make it up to you somehow. But today, it’s like John has come back from the dead. One day when you are a father, you will understand.”
Perhaps Jesus would tell the story this way if He were here today. It’s about our Father’s love.
A Word&Way trustee, Wade Paris writes the syndicated column, Shepherd’s Call.