Coming to Ourselves
I have always been fascinated with the stories in Luke 15 (sometimes called “Luke’s Lost and Found”). In that one chapter, Jesus tells three stories that are often labeled as: The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, and The Prodigal Son (or more accurately, The Prodigal and His Brother).
Each of these three stories tell about something that was lost and how, after searching and waiting, was found and restored to the place of belonging. Along with many, my favorite is the story of the prodigal and his brother found in Luke 15:11-32. It is a story of lostness that perhaps illuminates further our theme of brokenness.
Without retelling or commenting in detail on what led to the separation or even the dilemma between the two brothers after the return, I want to pause and reflect for a moment on the state of lostness and brokenness.
The youngest son, who has left home, has now spent his entire fortune on “resolute living” (I urge you not to over-moralize this because the idea of spending the fortune on prostitutes came from the mind of the older brother and not from the narrator (here, it is Jesus) telling the story).
He now has nothing, and he is forced to eke out a living feeding pigs for one of the local farmers (something a good Jewish person would find more than reprehensible). He is a lost and broken young man.
But Jesus then tells the story in a profound way. In the Greek, we read that “he came to himself” (εαυτον δε ελθων, for my Greek loving friends), which involves an active verb. As I wrote about yesterday about “remembering,” this isn’t a passive activity. While we often would say, “he came to his senses,” Jesus is saying that he moved toward himself … he suddenly saw himself and his situation in a new light.
In that moment, he knew his own desperate brokenness but he also knew the generous, loving heart beating within the breast of his own dad. It was the combination of those two realities that enabled him to move toward himself … to love himself enough to know that he was in a place he did not belong … to love himself enough to see this image of God amidst his own brokenness … to trust himself and his father enough to go home.
And it brought him to the place of humility. While his brother was still living according to a notion of worthiness based on how much he served his father, the young son came home expecting nothing more than the simplest act of grace … being able to live, not as a son, but as a servant in the place he had once called home.
What is confirmed for us is that the parental love demonstrating God’s love is surprisingly larger than we ever thought possible, and the young man’s place in the family is fully restored.
No matter where we are or our state of brokenness or even our sin, God’s love is big enough to make space for us to come to ourselves … to love ourselves … and make our way back home.
Lord, whose love is greater than our imaginations. Give us the courage to see ourselves as we truly are and love ourselves and trust you nonetheless. Amen.