(Part II of The Prodigal Son Series)
For much of my life (and even now, at times), I think I’ve had a very skewed view of repentance. Not just the idea of it, but the whole process. I feel like I always thought repenting was realizing that you did wrong, confessing it and asking for forgiveness. Later, I thought that repenting needed alot of tears and wailing and weeping and gnashing of teeth. It required a complete change in life. And if you experienced temptation or fell in that area you were struggling in, you probably didn’t really repent. I had this very romantic picture of once you repent, you’d have conquered that sin and be able to roam around freely without any worries of it again. Boy, was I wrong.
Through the parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus paints an amazing picture of true repentance. The son squandered away everything he had chasing after worldly pleasures. His life was completely flipped upside down, and he realized that life truly was greater when he followed in the ways of his father. This moment is caught in the scene of the son feeding pigs, longing to get even a few pods that the pigs were eating to satisfy his hunger.
Once the son realized his error, he didn’t simply sit in the pigpen, completely distraught over his failure. His recognition of his error brought him to return back to his father and ask to be able to live with him again. And he didn’t send a messenger to his father to tell him that. No, he gained the strength to stand up, leave his filthy lifestyle, and head back home. And when he approached his father, he confessed that he had sinned and that he needed forgiveness. He chose to leave his worldly life for the new lifestyle, not returning back to his old ways. That is true repentance.
One thing I started to think about was the walk he was making back home. The story quickly jumps from him in fields feeding pigs, coming to the realization that he needs to get out, and then being in front of his father. There obviously had to be a period of time when he travelled back home (…vs. 13 says that the son got everything he had and went to a distant country, so whatever travelling he had to do in one direction, he would have to do on the way back). For one, this is alot of time for him to think about the lifestyle he was living, and the idea of changing it. Repentance requires true heart change…sometimes, we truly don’t want to leave the filthy life we are living in, because it’s so much “easier” to stay in sadness than to attempt to attain joy. Repentance is not a quick prayer. It’s something we must wrestle with until we seriously desire to leave the sinful nature and fight against it. By the grace of God you can completely overcome it in moments, but at least from my experience, God trains us to continually press on by needing to really battle ourselves in whether God is our one and only desire.
The other thing that came to me was that I don’t think that the walk back was any different than the first walk away from home. He probably saw the same people he partied with, the same bars he got drunk at, the same places where he felt the great rush from gambling and living on the edge. Those same temptations were still calling out to him. But this time, his eyes were so focused on returning home to his father that he didn’t desire it anymore.
Satan attacks all the more as you get closer and closer to God. He presses you even more in remembering the “good times” you had, having you see your life in its “exciting” moments. The fight to return home is a struggle, a constant fight. But if your eyes are fixed on Christ, you’ll be able to overcome. God is good, God is strong. He WILL help you through. Repentance requires a complete change in lifestyle and change in heart, and it might take longer than you want. But the harder you press, the greater you’ll feel. There is so much better in store for you if you cling to this world with open hands. Keep pressing on…fight the good fight. Your Father is waiting to hold you in His arms.