If you’re lost and wrecked again.

Rembrandt’s famous painting of the Prodigal Son illustrates the joy of returning to God and finding that He truly is faithful to forgive our sins – yet again.

The Prodigal Son c. 1669 Rembrandt van Rijn

The story of the prodigal son seems to be directed not at the first-time repenter who is turning to Christ for initial forgiveness, but rather toward we who, though already in the Father’s house, are still “prone to wander…prone to leave the God I love,” as the old hymn goes.  It speaks to those who already know the Father but have walked away from Him – again – for a time.  And this is all of us who are Christians; we all rebel and sin, but the story of the Prodigal Son gives us to know that no matter how far we have wandered, the Father will still be merciful when we return to Him.

It’s easy to look at the story of the Prodigal Son from the vantage point of the happy ending, but what we may forget is that there was also this part of the story, the part when the son was still lost and wandering in rebellion, wrecked by sin and knowing that he should return to the Father but not yet having made the hard decision to leave the pigs:

The Prodigal Son 1872 by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes

After turning away from God to pursue some particular sin, there is always a moment when the sinner realizes his pursuit of what had seemed so tantalizing has landed him in a pigsty.  That is the worst moment, in my experience, because you feel utterly lost, permanently separated, and hopelessly mired down.  How can you ever go back when you’ve thrown away the riches you had?  Better just to sit here in the mud, which is all I deserve!  But:

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)

It is so hard in that moment to see that we are free to stand up and leave the pigsty; we really believe the illusion that we are chained there, but as the painting depicts, nothing is truly holding us back, other than a deep sense of shame at having walked away from the Father and having disappointed our family.  It is with hesitation and fear of rejection, as I know full well and perhaps you do too, that the prodigal approaches the Father again, head bowed with shame and regret, but how indescribable is the joyful relief when we find that He is actually celebrating our return!

Those who are still in the Father’s house when the prodigals – who we all will be at some point or another – return need to accept them with joy, not with bitterness and unforgiveness.  Hallelujah, what was lost is now found again!  This may be particularly hard if the prodigal son’s actions affected you personally, as they did the older brother in the story, but the Father tells us to forgive and come celebrate anyway.  The World, of course, cannot understand this kind of forgiveness and will mock us, but that is because Satan, the god of this Worldalways condemns, whereas Christ always forgives.  When you are yet in the Father’s house, you will need to decide whether you will be the bride of Christ or of Satan and then follow your spiritual husband’s lead.

To those who are in the pigsty – come home!

To those who are home – run out to greet them with joy and celebration!

Lift your head weary sinner, the river’s just ahead
Down the path of forgiveness, salvation’s waiting there
You built a mighty fortress 10,000 burdens high
Love is here to lift you up, here to lift you high

If you’re lost and wandering
Come stumbling in like a prodigal child
See the walls start crumbling
Let the gates of glory open wide

All who’ve strayed and walked away, unspeakable things you’ve done
Fix your eyes on the mountain, let the past be dead and gone
Come all saints and sinners, you can’t outrun God
Whatever you’ve done can’t overcome the power of the blood

If you’re lost and wandering
Come stumbling in like a prodigal child
See the walls start crumbling
Let the gates of glory open wide

If you’re lost and wrecked again
Come stumbling in like a prodigal child
See the walls start crumbling
Let the gates of glory be open wide

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5 thoughts on “If you’re lost and wrecked again.

  1. There is another point in this story that gets lost in historical context. Before the Prodigal Son left, he took his inheiritnce. That meant that the father had to figure out the value of his estate and liquidate half of it to hand over to his son while he still lived. That is what makes forgiveness so remarkable.
    There are people who would abuse forgivenesss. It should be noted that the son was truly sorry for his actions.

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    • It’s worth noting that if you tell the story to someone in the Middle East today, they get the import immediately–the Prodigal Son was telling his Father “I wish you were dead.” Suffice it to say that we all too often do not “get” this and its import for our relationship to God. How patient He truly is with us.

      It strikes me as well that we can make some inferences about the nature of Christian masculinity from the response of the father in the story. He knew that he did not have to win every confrontation immediately–circumstances would take care of that. And it is worth noting that the father also had to confront his other, outwardly conforming son, too.

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  2. David Crowder has a new fan. I’d not heard of him. YouTube fixed that. Neon Steeple indeed. Thanks Sunshine.

    @fuzzie: “It should be noted that the son was truly sorry for his actions.”

    I’d be more lnclined to believe that statement if the prodigal had up and got himself home while he still had half his inheritance left. Having a change of heart when he had nothing left seems a bit opportunistic. But I’ve always thought that was part of the story. God seems to be saying: “even if you wait until you have nowhere else to turn before you turn to me, I will still accept you; I won’t turn you away”.

    Of course, that idea stands in contradiction to the stance pushed by the Reformed folks that we are all dead in our trespasses and sins, our natural minds are hostile to the things of God, and, even though we have free will, it would never occur to us to choose God because we are not spiritually minded. If we are going to escape the pig-pen, it will only be because God reaches down to where we are and regenerates us. “Lazarus can’t call himself out of the grave”, and all that. (Colossians 2:13; Ephesians 2:1; Romans 8:7)

    Here’s two completely different styles, both pointing to the same truth that Sunshine lays out above. I like both.


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  3. This post is sticking with me like pizza with too many peppers. I keep seeing the good son, who never shirked, as a present day beta. The Prodigal would be all the wayward lasses who bought into third wave feminism. I don’t know how that story ends.

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