Today’s message is from Bob who was a prodigal who returned home and was remarried to me for an additional 23 years before the Lord took him home to Heaven. Bob wrote 19 books from the prodigal’s perspective for more than two decades after our divorce and remarriage. - Charlyne
Monday, as the United States celebrated Labor Day, a couple of television networks were profiling different jobs. I also heard a report on how many workers can differ in the same job. In today’s economy, it seems that every man or woman who has a job would be giving 110%, but that is not the case.
Last Wednesday we needed several items, so Charlyne and I visited the “Super Store,” a business known for its friendly greeters who welcome each customer. Even taking into account the person who was supposed to greet us might have been having a really bad day, the way we were welcomed was far below the average for this large chain of stores.
The greeter was lounging across the electric cart at the end of the half dozen that were waiting for customers. We asked a simple question and received a snarled negative reply. Everything about the woman’s demeanor said, “You are a bother.” I sat down on one of the bent benches that all Super Stores seem to have in their lobby area and observed the greeter. For the several minutes I was there, not once did she actually say hello to a customer coming into the store, nor did she say good-bye to the people who had just helped to pay her salary. She did find the time and energy to have a personal conversation with a friend, while customers passed by her, unnoticed, looking for shopping carts.
Before we left the store, the changing of the greeters must have taken place. There was quite a noticeable difference. The man then on duty was sharp. His dress said sharp. His motions said sharp. His attentive attitude said sharp. He was managing to say hello and good-bye to everyone who passed by. He was dispensing carts with a smile. When it looked like someone needed a hand, this man was right there.
If the Super Store chain ever wanted to do a training video for greeters on what to do and what not to do, these two people could have been their examples. One made customers feel, “I am glad I came in here,” and the other must have made customers ask, “Do I really want to shop here?”
Observing those two extremes at work, I pondered what kind of greeter will be waiting at the door when each prodigal returns. Before you reply about how wide your door will be open, please think about it.
Luke, Chapter 15, the parable of the prodigal son, gives us Jesus’ example of the perfect greeter in the prodigal’s father:
“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. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 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. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.” Luke 15:20-24
That wise father was quite a greeter. Despite the prodigal son’s repentance, the father restored the prodigal to his place within that family with no questions asked. He did not ask about the past, nor did he set rules for the future.
During the past 20 plus years, we have known of prodigals who actually showed up at their family home to see if they would be welcomed back without restriction or if their spouse had set the bar so high the prodigal knew they could never meet the standards. We know of some families where this has resulted in homecoming for a prodigal spouse. Sadly, we have also heard of families where, based on the greeting received, the prodigal drove on, even though everything they owned was in their car and ready to be brought inside.
If the beloved husband/wife, for whom you are praying, were to knock on your door in the next five minutes, the kind of greeting they would receive depends much on how you are handling forgiveness.
To be real honest with you, after all these years I still cannot comprehend how Charlyne forgave me, nor can I fully understand how she has continued to forgive me day after day for everything I do. I cannot fully understand how you can forgive your prodigal for the hurt they are causing this very day. I do know it is possible, with the help of God, because I have seen it happen in our marriage.
We have a special web page on forgiveness God’s way. If this subject is a concern to you, please visit our Forgive Them page and listen to the hours of Charlyne’s teaching on it. You can also read several hundred testimonies from other men and women who have forgiven their prodigal spouse.
Even if the greeter business has been slow at the door to your home recently, this post Labor Day Tuesday would be a good time to make certain that a sincere, forgiven welcome awaits your spouse. After all, we prodigals do come home and often we do it without much warning.
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 1 Peter 3:15-16
Unless otherwise noted, scripture quoted are from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2010 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.