“Then the younger son gathered up all that was his and left. He traveled far away to another country. There he wasted his money in foolish living. He spent everything that he had. Soon after that, the land became very dry, and there was no rain. There was not enough food to eat anywhere in the country. The son was hungry and needed money. So he got a job with one of the citizens there. The man sent the son into the fields to feed pigs. The son was so hungry that he was willing to eat the food the pigs were eating. But no one gave him anything. The son realized that he had been very foolish.” Luke 15:13-17a (ICB)
Emma was one of those students who was both a delight and a challenge. She always had interesting and sometimes funny things to say and she was pretty insightful when it came to figuring out complicated things. But Emma had a bit of a naughty streak in her. She liked to steal papers off of other student’s desks and put them in her book bag. She would often take pencils or scissors when they left their desks. At recess, Emma liked to make up her own rules for games and would run off with the play equipment if she didn’t get her way. Mrs. Harold was often talking to Emma about making better choices.
One day though, Emma went too far. As the boy in back of her got up to sharpen his pencil, Emma tripped him. He went down, bruising his elbow and hand on the hard linoleum. Mrs. Harold had no choice but to take Emma to the principal’s office. This was a new low for Emma. She had never been to the principal’s office before and she could only imagine what he was going to do. Maybe he would make her stay home from school for several days. Emma loved school and it scared her to think she might not be able to be there for a while. Maybe he was going to punish her by making her write some silly essay or do chores around the school. Maybe he was going to tell her she had to go to a different school.
He thought, ‘All of my father’s servants have plenty of food. But I am here, almost dying with hunger. I will leave and return to my father. I’ll say to him: Father, I have sinned against God and against you. I am not good enough to be called your son. But let me be like one of your servants.’” Luke 15:17b-19 (ICB)
Emma squirmed in the chair in the outer office as she waited for the principal to call her name. When the door opened, Emma felt her heart sink.
“Come in, Emma,” Principal Gage said with a smile. Emma sat in the chair across from the big desk and could hardly breathe. “Do you know why you’re in here visiting with me?” he asked.
“I tripped a boy,” Emma replied. “I know I shouldn’t have. I was just going to PRETEND to trip him then I actually did. I didn’t think he would get hurt.”
“But he did, Emma.” Principal Gage replied. “And it could have been a lot worse than it was. What do you think your punishment should be Emma?”
Emma thought hard about all the things she had been doing. She wished that she could take every one of them back. She realized that her little pranks were not a good thing; she had been kind of naughty. “I don’t deserve to be here at school,” Emma thought to herself. “I deserve to be punished for all the things I’ve done. I don’t deserve to have a second chance.”
Before she could speak, Principal Gage said, “I know there is a good girl inside you Emma. We all want to see that good person who lives inside you. I know you have made some mistakes in the past but tomorrow is a new day and a new chance to be a new Emma. Do you think you can do that?”
Emma could hardly believe her ears. Principal Gage wasn’t going to punish her. In fact, he was forgiving her. Not only that, but he was giving her a second chance and telling her that she was special to him, to her teacher, and to the students in her classroom. Emma felt like a new person and vowed to let everybody see that new, improved person the minute she got back to the classroom.
Principal Gage could have punished her for what she did. He could have turned his back on her and told her she was naughty. He could have done just about anything. But he chose to forgive her and welcome her back.
“So the son left and went to his father. While the son was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. He felt sorry for his son. So the father ran to him, and hugged and kissed him.” Luke 15:20 (ICB)
This is the story of the prodigal son. He spent much time being “naughty” and finally found himself feeding pigs. He decided to return home and ask his father for forgiveness. He didn’t expect much. He knew he didn’t deserve much. But he was going to take his chances.
Did that father turn his back on him? Did he refuse to welcome him home? Did he tell him he made too many mistakes to be forgiven? No, that father welcomed his son home. He even put his finest robe on him and killed his biggest calf. That father rejoiced because the son who had been lost to him was found.
We all have been “naughty” at times. And we all have been punished for it at times. But even though our parents punish us for things we shouldn’t be doing, it doesn’t change how much they love us. No matter what we do, they still love us.
It’s like that with God, too. He doesn’t turn his back on us when we come to Him asking for forgiveness. Instead He rejoices that we who were once lost have been found again. The Bible tells us that the Lord searches for his lost sheep and rejoices when they are found. Can you imagine the singing and rejoicing that will take place in Heaven when your mom or dad return to the Lord, asking for forgiveness, and being spiritually “found” again? What a day that will be!
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Hurry! Bring the best clothes and put them on him. Also, put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get our fat calf and kill it. Then we can have a feast and celebrate! My son was dead, but now he is alive again! He was lost, but now he is found!’ So they began to celebrate.” Luke 15:22-24 (ICB)
Kim, a stander in Nebraska
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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.