Call me sentimental or call me insane, but with graduation upon me I can’t help but reflect on my college years. Maybe you are in college, high school, mid-twenties, or even in motherhood, and find yourself reflecting on your past as well.
And if you’re anything like me, then reflecting on your past sometimes means reflecting on your mistakes. You can’t help but remember that class you didn’t do too hot in, how many times you begged Becky in seat 3 to remind you what was due the next day, and the Friday night you wish never happened.
You remember the lies you once believed. The insecurity and competition you held on to for too long. The times you thought you knew it all, and turned out to be just as naïve as others said you were.
You remember the mistake that is too dirty – too bad to be spoken of. You push it back and pretend it never happened, until you get a moment alone and shame creeps in your heart and festers into insecurity. No one would love you if only they knew.
You remember the loneliness and challenges you faced when you expected to be having the “best years” of your life. But you posted on social media pictures faces that came and left in your life. Faces that betrayed you maybe; faces that abandoned you. And faces that made you wonder why you weren’t enough.
You remember your judgment on others. Your need to size people up and compete over meaningless pursuits. You remember the hate you held in your heart for people you barely knew.
You remember the boy or girl who broke your heart and the almost relationship that brought you to pathetic tears when you had no idea why. You knew he wasn’t the “one” the whole time… right?
You remember the failures, mistakes, and regrets that cause your reflection to turn into infection. Infecting your beautiful love story that was once about being redeemed and growing in wisdom. You infected your story with insecurity, doubt, and lies from the enemy.
The Prodigal Son is a story in Luke chapter 15:11-32. I’ll put the whole story at the end of this article. But basically… it is about two sons and one father. One son left his father, with his father’s money, went crazy, sinned over and over again, just to end up sleeping with pigs. He then finally gained the courage to come home and ask his father if he could just be a servant for him.
However, his father opened his arms to him and welcomed him back with a feast. And a party. And I’m sure there was dance moves and jumps for joy and praises to God. The other son wasn’t too happy. It wasn’t fair that the other son had been forgiven.
So here’s the point…. your story is a happily ever after. Okay, maybe it doesn’t mean life is going to now be easy and simple and without battles. But it means your story is always about your Savior’s love. Yes, your sin is apart of the story. But it is not longer the climax. It is not the ending. Your story had bumps, and bruises, and weekends you regret. But it ends with the Father’s arms. It ends with you having a seat at the table.
Yes, you messed up. Yes, you sinned. But your story of regret is now (or has the option to be) a story of redemption. The Father has a seat at the table for you. And when Jesus Christ invites you to sit at the table after you decide to come home, I doubt He’s going to ask about that Friday night your freshman year of college you made that mistake. And I really doubt He will care about the test you failed. He’s going to open His arms, throw a party, and celebrate. He’s going to invite you to stay in His arms and in His house. He’s going to rejoice.
Your past is now a testimony.
So when you look back on your yesterday, look at it with thankfulness. Thankful that even with a past as ugly as ours, Jesus still has His arms wide… being nailed to the cross as a sacrifice for our mistakes, and an opportunity to be able to hug Him and be clothed with grace this very second.
And if you’re in college, high school, your thirties, or your fifties and still haven’t come home… please come back. There’s a party to be celebrated and you’re the main guest. You’re never too far off for Jesus. What you did is not “too bad” for a seat at this table. Come as you are.
And to those also at the table already, don’t leave because the guests’ sins are too bad or uncomfortable for you. Welcome them. Open your arms in a reflection of your Father’s. You were once in your brother’s shoes. You once ran home.
May your yesterday be just a simple stop on your road to your tomorrow. May your today be an opportunity to welcome or be welcomed. And may our regrets turn to stories of redemption given by our Lord Jesus.
Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”