One of things I like to tell people people is, “The best way to get finished, is to get started.” For whatever reason, getting started is always the hardest. We like to think of how long it will take, how much work it will take, or anything else that will keep us from starting whatever it is. The Chinese philosopher said, “The journey of a thousand miles starts with one step.” That first step is always harder than making the decision to take it. But once you take that first step, you have momentum on your side.
The problem many of us face is that momentum goes both ways. Many times we drift away from God. We quit going to church, we stop reading the Bible, and then we stop praying. The next thing you know, our lives don’t reflect Christ anymore. We can begin to think we are unworthy of God’s grace, so we allow that momentum to continue our drift away. It usually takes a major event in our lives to rock our world enough to get us to take that first step back home. God is not afraid to cause you temporary discomfort if it will bring you home.
There are some of us though, who intentionally walk away from God. The Prodigal Son, in Luke 15, asked his father for his share of the inheritance, and walked away. It took a major event for him to decide he wanted to go back to the father. Just like the other situation, it takes making that first step. Luke 15:20 says, “So he got up and started back to his father” (GNT). It wasn’t enough to think about going back to his father. He had to get up, get on the road home, and start walking.
If you’re drifting away from God or have intentionally walked away, you can still make the journey home. You can’t go so far that God’s grace can’t reach you. The rest of that verse says that the Father saw his son a long way off and ran to Him. While you walk home, God runs to you. James 4:8 tells us if we will draw near to God, He will draw near to us. It just takes that first step to start heading home. What are you waiting for? The best way to get home, is to get started.
I’ve always loved the parable of the Prodigal Son. I’ve been able to identify with so many parts of that story throughout my life. I’ve taken my spiritual inheritance, ran off and squandered it before. I’ve come to the end of my rope and realized that the Father still has enough grace to call me His son even when I didn’t deserve it. I’ve even been the son who stayed home and was upset at how those who’ve returned home have flourished and been blessed.
When we read that, I think many of us are somewhere in that story. Some of us are on that journey away from home. All we have known is a Christian life and we somehow think we will find true happiness outside the confines of Christianity. We take what we’ve been given and throw it away. We live how we want to live. How we think we’re supposed to live. I can tell you just like the Prodigal Son could, it comes to an end at some point. There comes a time when all of that catches up and it’s not fun anymore. What was once freedom becomes a cage.
I know. I know. It’s not going to happen to you. Somehow you are different. You can do this on your own. Since the beginning, that is the lie we have all believed. Adam and Eve believed they could do it without God. Genesis 3:6 says that Eve was convinced and she wanted the wisdom that the fruit could give her. She wanted to get it on her own without God. Everything that God had given them was taken away for believing that lie.
The Prodigal believed it too. He figured he could take what was rightfully his and do better with it than his father could. As soon as it was all gone, there was a famine. Pride kept him from going home. He tried to stick it out as long as he could. He finally got so miserable that he had no pride left. He didn’t even see himself as a son anymore. There have been times where I haven’t seen myself as a son either. Where I did what I could to survive. It was miserable.
Thank God for His grace. He, like the father in the story, is patiently waiting for our return. He isn’t there to say, “I told you so.” No. He’s there to say, “I love you and I’ve missed you. Welcome home, child.” That’s the heart of the God we serve. He doesn’t sit and plot revenge on you for leaving. He sits and looks for your return so He can embrace you and call you His once again. He wants you safely in His arms where you belong.
So, where are you in this story? Have you left? Are you out having the time of your life not realizing what’s coming? Are you in that desperate place trying to figure out a way home so that you will be accepted again? Maybe you’re home now contemplating leaving. I can tell you that wherever you are in this story, God sees you. He knows where you are. Don’t believe the lies that take you away or keep you away. There is freedom in Him. There is joy in Him. There is security in Him. It’s time to come home and be His child once again.
My wife and I took a road trip this weekend. The two of us were in the front seat and our toddler was in the back seat. All throughout the trip she would talk to him, play with him and occupy him while I drove. There were a couple of times when she was playing with him when a car in front of me had braked. I too applied my break. When I did, she would look up or turn around to see a car in front of me with their brake lights on and she would let out a yelp and brace herself with the dashboard. We laughed because it was unusual for her to do that.
After doing this a couple of times, I told her, “I got this. Trust me. I knew he was going to brake and I was prepared.” I explained that I had taken defensive driving classes plenty of times (don’t ask why) and that they taught me to look 10-20 seconds ahead to where I was going. As a passenger though, she wasn’t occupied with what was ahead. She kept getting startled and scared by what kept popping up in our path because she wasn’t looking ahead. She was looking behind mostly or right in front of us.
I think a lot of us live life that way. We are either constantly looking back while our lives are moving forward or we are so concentrated on what is right ahead of us that we fail to look ahead. We get caught up when something pops up that we didn’t expect and let out a yelp. We see brake lights in our path and grab our dashboard in fear. We get preoccupied with everything around us without looking ahead to where we are going.
When we do that, I can hear God say, “I got this. Trust me. I knew this was going to happen.” Instead of trusting Him though, we become a backseat driver to Him. We tell Him He should have braked earlier. He should have warned us. We question why He’s taking this road instead of that one. We tell Him to slow down or to speed up. Our lack of trust in who He is and in the plan for our lives begins to show up when we do this.
It kind of reminds me of the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. The son who had left was returning home after he squandered all that was given to him. While he was walking, he was so concentrated on what he would say. He worried if he would be received and was practicing over and over what he would tell his dad when he got home. He was doing this so much, that he wasn’t even looking ahead. He didn’t know where he was, but his dad did. He was still a long way off when his father saw him and ran to him.
God is always looking far off ahead of us. He knows our path and His plan for our lives. While we are looking down or behind, He is looking ahead and preparing. When things happen suddenly, it may cause you to grab the dashboard and scream because you are unprepared for it, but He is not. Trust Him to do the driving His way. Just because where He is taking you doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t mean He has fallen asleep at the wheel. Trust Him with your life and try not to be a backseat driver.