Finding the Gold

Starting a Journey
Over the last few years, the Lord has taught me about the importance of being a leader in different capacities of life. Honestly, it’s not a role I ever

aspired to become or wanted. Maybe that’s why He continuously draws me to do it? The role of a leader is a continuation of a theme in my life to become more engaged with a community of believers, understand the value of getting involved in messy relationships, and embody the call to build each other up. The goal of sharing my journey is to inspire you, fellow future and current leaders, to “find the gold” (recognize and encourage the strengths of others around you within your sphere(s) of influence).

About five years ago, I was living within my fairly comfortable bubble of shy introversion. I had the same small group of friends and the same familiar routines of life; but, as is often the case, God had other plans. That was about the same timeframe I began going to a new church and shortly after God had intervened in very real way in my life. God was setting me up for growth and self-discovery in ways that I could have never imagined.

Becoming a Spiritual Mother

My new church became home for me. It’s my family. I can’t imagine being anywhere else. It’s where I first encountered other people who are sensitive to the voice and move of the Presence of God and obediently respond. It was also where I was first called a “spiritual mother” (the first role of leadership that God would quickly instill and develop within me). The person who gave me that informal title was a young leader within my church; but, when he said the words to me — “God is growing you as a ‘spiritual mother’ and your husband as a ‘spiritual father'” — I laughed. I thought at the time he was mistaken. I told myself I didn’t have the personality to raise up other people, nor did I want to do it. I was not a mentor or a coach. But God was speaking truth to me through that church leader that day. His words spoke to the deepest parts of my heart, and he was absolutely right. God was about to show me the awakening of my true identity.

Awaking the Passion of Discipleship

The same year I joined my new church, I had the amazing honor of mentoring a close friend who was a new follower of Jesus. I had no idea where to even begin growing someone else in their spiritual walk, but the more I asked the Lord to guide our daily interactions, the more He provided opportunities. As a result, we both grew; and I discovered a passion for teaching about the Word of God and discipling others.

Shepherding and Coaching

A year later, I became a supervisor in a new career. Supervision wasn’t something I looked for, but it was something that found me at the right time. I agreed to do it, knowing it was

going to challenge me in uncomfortable ways. I had to be assertive and confident. It demanded the best qualities from me: grace and mercy; tenderness; modeling the right attitudes and responses to difficult situations; dealing with conflict; working alongside my employees and serving their needs; but, most importantly, shepherding and coaching.

In the moments when I felt like I was failing, God used my manager who hired me to push me further. She saw the gold within me and knew what I could become. Over the next three years, I grew into the role until finally one day, I felt like I was beginning to understand the most basic levels what being a leader actually meant.

Leading Others through Worship

The past two years have rapidly accelerated the growing process for becoming a leader. I left my supervisor job for a different role that no longer required the management of people. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t relieved. Supervising people can be tough! But if I thought I was done with leading, I was

mistaken. Again, God had other plans.
I joined the temporary choir we had a church for about a year (our praise band took a temporary hiatus). I never sang in front of other people before that point. A few months later, I was asked to lead worship for a few songs. The act of leading worship radically shifted my perception of how to guide others into an encounter with the living God through words and songs.

The year before I joined the choir, I had a dream about singing and leading worship at church in the setting of a worship team. I truly believe the Lord was using that dream to prepare my heart and teach me boldness for the next step — co-leading worship as part of our newly revived praise band. What an immense blessing it is to see other people connecting with God in their own ways as they sing with us. It will mess you up in all sorts of good ways to see people singing their hearts out, crying, and praying during worship. It’s all for the glory of God, and has very little to do with me. I would not consider my singing particularly remarkable. I just have to be obedient, and God will use it.

Putting it All Together

Most recently, God provided opportunities to lead other young leaders within a small group and within my other spheres of influence.

The Lord is using the skills of leadership He’s been honing within me for the benefit of the Kingdom of God and the building of leaders. He’s showing me how to find the other “king makers” (leaders who raise up leaders) and to recognize the gold hidden within others and draw it out. I am a spiritual mother. I am a mentor. I am a shepherd. I am a worship leader.

Is God speaking to you about fulfilling the role of leadership? I challenge you to look for the gold in people in your life. Ask the Lord how you can encourage or disciple someone He highlights in your life.

Powerful, godly leaders leave a lasting influence and legacy on others the people around them. May you leave an imprint on others that lasts for generations even if no one remembers your name.

Love,
Heather

Find Your Tribe

God has taught me a lot lately about the value of “finding your tribe.” The word “tribe” in this sense is a tight-knit group of 

Friendspeople that are trustworthy, safe, share similar spiritual goals, and hold each other accountable. 

My personality type allows me to dangerously get too comfortable with being self-(in)sufficient — alone with my thoughts, alone with my goals, and lazy about my dreams. Although I have a few close friends from high school and college, my recent years as a young, married professional have been a barrage of busyness and distraction. There’s so much to do and seemly not enough time to get it all done. It’s so easy to disconnect if you don’t actively cultivate the friendships around you. Unfortunately, disconnection usually means slow or little spiritual growth and maturity.

The past year and a half was certainly full of changes in my life. I changed jobs during the summer of 2016 and greatly missed the daily interactions with a few close friends that I had in my previous workplace. My social circles at church also radically changed as many of the people my age moved away or left our church. None of these changes were necessarily bad. It just left my husband and me with a bit of a social-spiritual deficit, and we suddenly found ourselves craving a community of people looking for the same godly growth and interests we were. We felt an acute awareness that we needed more — more relationships with a body of believers outside of ourselves, more deep meaningful conversations about what the Lord is doing, and more stretching in all the healthy ways we were lacking.

Before I changed jobs, I was surrounded by daily interactions with fellow believers. It was a true blessing that I’m sure is very rare unless you work in some sort of ministry environment. I asked God to help me find 

Friends having funsimilar friendships in my new workplace — not to replace my other friends, but to grow my social circle and continue the daily interactions I realized I was craving so deeply. Our wonderful, giving Father God heard my prayer and placed me in a group of fellow believers; and the friend I interacted with the most became a reliable, trustworthy friend who embodies honor, leadership, spiritual discernment, and exhortation. 

In my church life, God introduced my husband and me to a powerful group of believers with similar Holy Spirit-given giftings and slightly different strengths. These people have become family. They are safe. They listen. They are prayer warriors. They are encouragers. They are challengers when you need to be pushed to reach higher. They are mentors. In addition, God is teaching me to see the same qualities within myself that I never knew existed. 

I challenge you, friend, to cultivate the friendships in your life. Find a community of people who see the gold in you and hold you accountable. Engage with people that are going after God because those are the people who will ensure your fire for God will never be snuffed out from the troubles of this life, and you’ll have opportunities to do the same for them.

Your Sister in Christ,

Heather

God’s Word for Your New Year

Happy New Year, friend!

As you think about the year ahead, have you asked God for a word to represent something He will actively do in your life during the

What is your word for the new year? coming year? This is a question I’ve asked Father God over the last few years, and the answers I received have been profound and life-changing.

The thought of asking God for a word for yourself may seem strange. I completely understand if you feel that way. The first time the idea was posed to me, I wasn’t sure what to think. It felt gimmicky. However, the idea apparently piqued my interest enough to try because I found myself asking God for a word one cold January night.

I wondered that night how long I’d have to pray to receive an answer. The funny thing is, I didn’t even get the question fully out of my mouth before I suddenly received an answer. The word was “warrior.” It wasn’t a word I audibly heard. Instead, it was a quick thought that flew through my mind so fast I almost missed it. It’s a bit hard to explain how to “hear” something that you can’t audibly hear with physical ears, but my spirit seemed to know “warrior” was my word. However, I wanted to make sure I really heard from God and wasn’t answering my own questions.

The next night, I found a quiet space in my house and sat down with my Bible. I thanked Father God for the word “warrior” and told Him that I desperately wanted to confirm it was the word He had actually spoken. Next, I asked the Holy Spirit to guide my hands and lead me to the passage that would somehow help confirm my word. To ensure I wouldn’t know where He might lead, I closed my eyes and opened the pages of my Bible. When I opened my eyes again, I couldn’t believe what I saw! Before me were the open pages of the Book of Psalms, and David was crying out for the Lord’s victory over his enemies who were pursuing him to kill him:

“My future is in your hands. Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly. Let your favor shine on your servant. In your unfailing love, rescue me. Don’t let me be disgraced, O Lord, for I call out to you for help. Let the wicked be disgraced; let them lie silent in the grave. Silence their lying lips — those lying and arrogant lips that accuse the godly.” – Psalm 31:15-18

It seemed to be no coincidence that I was reading about David. He was certainly a warrior. Was this the word that God was speaking over me? It seemed the answer I received was the first of several confirmations.

During the weeks that followed, I experienced many trials at the hands of cruel personalities. In years past, I probably would have given in to the circumstance and allowed myself to become the victim. But something rose up inside of me like a lion. I was determined not to give up, and I decided to fight the situation in the only way I knew: I prayed. I read Scripture. I spent many lunches during my workweeks with my door closed and my face on the floor asking God to intercede. I read several verses from Psalms out loud as declarations about the Lord’s victory over the circumstance.

Months passed. God did intercede. The trial ended. The cruel personalities never harmed me or my loved ones with any lasting wounds. I was delivered from that dark place. God used that year to teach me how to fight and how to pray. He taught me what it means to be a “warrior.”

Last year, I received the word “temporary rest”, and it was a welcome change from the chaos of the last several years. It was the first year in a very long time that I experienced

May the year ahead be filled with the goodness of Godemotional and spiritual healing through new godly friendships and the removal of the environment that had caused me so much pain. I am so grateful.

This year, my word is “new”, and I can’t wait to see what God has in store. It was clear before 2018 even began that the word for this year represents so many wonderful God moments that they can’t fit into one year! For example, recently, I’ve been learning new duties at my job; and as a result, I’m gaining new skills. The Lord has given me even more godly friendships that I’m sure will only grow closer as the year develops. I led worship at my church for the first time ever. Also, if you’ve followed this blog for a while you may have noticed the previous name “The In Place Missionary” has changed to “Love Roars.” Yes, that’s new too. I have wanted to buy that domain for over a year, and it finally happened!

I hope you will spend a quiet moment with the Lord and ask Him for a word for your year, and I hope the word you receive will provide you a sense of expectancy to see God move in very real ways in your life.

Your Sister in Christ,
Heather

God Wants a Hero like You not a Superhero

This post was written by my hero — my husband Clay White. ♡

Recently, I attended a Bethel Music concert. The event was worshipful and set a reverent tone for spending quiet time with the Lord.

However, as the concert concluded and the lights flickered on, the song “Something Just Like This” by The Chainsmokers & Coldplay played through the sound system.  I remember thinking at the time, “That is an odd song choice to play after all of the worship music we just heard.”

I heard the song “Something Just Like This” again over the last few days and listened closely to the lyrics.  Suddenly, the song made since for the worship venue — at least to me.  The words reference heroes and legends like Hercules, Achilles, Batman, and Superman and how the singer doesn’t feel like he belongs in that list.  Reading these lyrics provided a profound revelation to my heart. I imagined God singing the lyrics about me: “How much you wanna risk? I’m not looking for somebody with some superhuman gifts. Some superhero, some fairytale bliss.”

I have honestly felt several times in the past like everyone else in my Christian sphere of influence has more spiritual gifts, hears God better, is more connected, and so on than I am.  What I felt God saying through this popular music song was those people are human just like I am.  They are not any more special than I am.  God is not looking for a member of the Avengers or Justice League.  He is just looking for normal people who are willing to say yes to Him. He wants people who are open to stepping out in faith to be used for His purposes.  

If you step out in faith, God will show up.  It may not be in the way you expect, but I love that about God.  I love that He can take a pop music song or something that seemingly has nothing to do with God and blow your mind with a spiritual revelation.  

I want to encourage and challenge you.  You may feel like you have nothing to offer God. I know that I feel that way more frequently than I should.  There have been many times I had a word for someone that I was nervous about giving to them, but when I finally stepped out in faith and gave them the word, it was total confirmation for them.  Take a risk and step out in faith; God will not let you down.

Finding Lasting Contentment

It’s an odd paradox to have all you need yet still feel discontent. If you are skeptical of this seeming contradiction, all you have to do is read or watch interviews of professional football players, rock stars, or other very successful people who state they have everything they ever wanted but still feel empty. As a result, their hearts wander. The direction of their lives cease to contain the same vibrancy it once did in their youth when they thought, “I’ll be happy if I can only achieve [insert ideal moment/thing here].” 

I am not trying to say we should not have dreams and ambitions in life. Setting goals and working towards them can be a rewarding process that brings honor and glory to God because it is an expression of who God has created us to be (1 Corithinians 10:31). But, with that said, the dream or ambition itself should not be our center focus. When it becomes the ultimate goal, discontentment can lead to an unhealthy spirit and elevate the process of filling a perceived lack to an idol. It’s a heart issue that affects non-Christians and Believers in Christ alike.

The Bible warns us about discontentment because it can be a symptom of disobedience. Why? Instead of looking to God to provide for our needs and give us the desire of our hearts, we develop a mindset of looking for a change in our circumstances to bring us happiness. See the example of Adam and Eve who ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because they felt they were lacking something good that God was withholding from them. As a result, they willfully disobeyed the command not to eat of the tree. It is the heart of the natural man to constantly look at our own lack and try to fill it because we are looking for something eternal that only God can provide to us.

As a person who has climbed the proverbial career ladder and sought financial success for all the wrong reasons in the past, I recognize I must heed God’s whispered warnings to my heart about avoiding the discontentment trap. When things are going well, it can be easy sometimes to feel in control. When you cease to feel desperate, it can be seemingly easy to live a life without God at the forefront, steering the way. Ironically, it’s in those moments when I find I often need Him most, even though I don’t feel like I do.

How do we find contentment when our hearts are restless? Paul gives us the “secret” in Philippians 4:11-13 (AMP): “Not that I speak from [any personal] need, for I have learned to be content [and self-sufficient through Christ, satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or uneasy] regardless of my circumstances. 12 I know how to get along and live humbly [in difficult times], and I also know how to enjoy abundance and live in prosperity. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret [of facing life], whether well-fed or going hungry, whether having an abundance or being in need. 13 I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose—I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.]”

In short, Christ is the only one who can provide peace, where our attempts to answer the “if I only hads” of life cannot. I encourage you, Brother/Sister, if you find yourself discontent with the situation you’re in, meditate on the passage Philippians 4:11-13 and ask God to show you the root of your dissatisfaction and remind you of the source of your hope. Remember your God will supply all your needs according to His riches and glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).

I hope this post will encourage you and bring perspective about the important things in life. God is in control and has your best interest at heart. He intends to maximize the potential of who you are created to be and increase the effectiveness of your ministry in your life and those around you. He would never deprive you from something better.

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” – Psalm 37:4

With much love,
Heather White

Reconsidering the Woman at the Well

A “prostitute.” A “harlot.” A “promiscuous woman.” These are all words traditionally used to describe the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. Like Mary Magdalene, she is often judged for her past as a sinner and as a person with little-to-no value due to her circumstances. But is this characterization accurate?

John’s Account

At the beginning of John 4, Jesus and His disciples arrived in the Samaritan village of Sychar on their way to Galilee. Normally, Jews traveled for three days around Sychar to ensure they would have no contact with Samaritans, a group they considered unclean; but the Bible says that Jesus and His disciples had to go through the village (but no explanation is given as to why) (Lizorkin-Eyzenberg).

Once they arrived at Sychar, the disciples went into the village to buy food. Jesus, who was very tired, sat beside Jacob’s well (a field near the village) to rest. Shortly after, a Samaritan woman approached to draw water. Although the woman was never named, we know from the story that her interactions with Jesus and the revelation she was in the presence of the long-awaited Messiah impacted an entire village. However, we also learn she was married five times and living with a sixth man to whom she was not married, a discovery that has frequently painted her in a harsh light.

Reconsidering the Samaritan Woman’s Character

Interestingly, the Samaritan woman’s assumed naughty behavior is not commented on directly by Jesus as sinful, unlike the adulterous woman to whom He told to “go and sin no more.” In addition, John, as part of his account, never stated the cause of the woman’s situation either. It seems possible this omission may be on purpose as it is likely not the focus of the story; however, it has traditionally been used as the emphasis. Why do I say her alleged sin is not the primary piece of the story? Let’s take a look at some common scenarios this unnamed woman might have faced that have nothing to do with sinful behavior that could have led to her tragic marital situation.

The Widow

It was not uncommon in the First Century for a young teenage girl to marry a much older man. The life expectancy was short and becoming a widow more than once was a reality for many women of antiquity for that part of the world. Could it be possible the woman at the well experienced the death of at least one of her five husbands? It seems very likely (Crown, Silver).

Marriage Laws

Some Biblical researchers have suggested the Samaritan woman may have been involved in a Levirate marriage; however, this scenario, although possible, was not allowed by Samaritan and Levitical laws (see Leviticus 18:16 and Deutoronomy 25:5-10) and has been strictly followed (most of the time) for what is known from ancient Samaritan historical writings. The Levirate marriage was the practice of a widow marrying the dead husband’s brother to provide financial security and continue the brother’s family line.

History suggests Samaritans may have practiced Levirate marriages at some point since Jewish women, for whom this practice was common, married into Samaritan families upon occasion to reduce the genetic consequences of continuous intermarriage of extended family members. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume the rules and laws may have changed slightly over time, but due to poor records on marriage laws and customs from that timeframe, it is difficult to know for sure (Atteberry, Crown, and New World Encyclopedia).

It was also acceptable for Samaritan men to have more than one wife, especially if the first wife was barren. Although the law legally allowed this form of marriage, Jesus’ definition was between one man and one woman only. Some theologians have suggested that perhaps Jesus was not pointing to her sin with the last man she was with but simply pointing to an arrangement that was not recognized by Him (Crown).

Occasionally, it was necessary for a woman who had no dowry to be taken in by a distant male relative (which was common). This is also a possibility as she would have been living with a man to whom she was not married (Crown).

Divorce

Serial divorce initiated by the woman at the well has also been brought up as a possible reason she had so many husbands, but that situation seems the most unlikely. Since women have to have a male relative help with divorce initiations, it would have been unheard of to have any respectable man help her divorce several different men. It would have been considered extremely taboo in that part of the world during the First Century (Crown).

Is it possible she initiated at least one divorce of the five marriages? Yes, it is possible. It would not be unthinkable that multiple men may have divorced her. It was much easier for a man to divorce his wife than for a woman to divorce her husband (Crown).

The Prostitute

Could the woman at the well have been a prostitute? If she initiated divorce, she may have lost any dowry or other assets to her ex-husband. In that ancient culture, no husband would have meant little or no financial security, personal value, or future hopes. She would have been at high risk for living on the streets, starving, and destitute. It also seems reasonable to assume that if she were a prostitute, no one in her village would have listened to her testimony of her encounter with Jesus because her standing within her own community would have been so low (Atteberry).

Final Thoughts

Honestly, the more I consider any of the scenarios listed above, the more I feel compassion for this woman. Her past seems to indicate she was most likely a victim of her circumstances instead of a sinful, wicked woman. The one fact that stands out the most about the Samaritan woman’s story to me is that Jesus saw her worth. He spoke about her situation which carried a lot of personal significance about her financial situation, standing within her own community, and the likely deep lack she felt. In addition, Jesus, a Jewish teacher, talked to an “unclean” Samaritan who was a woman. Then, He asked to share her water vessel which would have caused him to be considered ritually unclean. Any of those things on their own would have been considered odd by the culture of the day (Atteberry).

It seems the account tells so much more than about a woman at the well. It was a divine appointment which led the first evangelist, a woman, as recorded by John to reach a people separated from God. Jesus offered worth and restoration to a broken woman; she took the same hope and restoration to her community.

Beloved, if you carry shame and unworthiness, consider the story of the woman at the well. Like Joseph, who’s tragic circumstances led to the salvation of his people (by the way, his bones were buried very closely to Jacob’s well), this unnamed woman’s story follows a similar path (Bible Study Tools).

No shame is too great. No brokenness too unworthy for God to look beyond your past and speak restoration over you.

Sincerely,

Heather
Resources

Atteberry, Shawna, The Voice, http://www.crivoice.org/WT-samaritan.html

Bible Study Tools, “At Jacob’s Well and at Sychar”, http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/the-fourfold-gospel/by-sections/at-jacobs-well-and-at-sychar.html

Crown, Alan, Jewish Women’s Archive “Samaritan Sect”, http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/samaritan-sect

Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, Eli and Loden, Lisa, “Reconsidering the Samaritan Woman”, http://jewishstudies.eteacherbiblical.com/john-4-reconsidering-the-samaritan-woman/

New World Encyclopedia, “Levirate Marriage”, http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Levirate_Marriage

Silver, Sandra, Early Church History, “Longevity in the Ancient World”, http://earlychurchhistory.org/daily-life/longevity-in-the-ancient-world/

The Tale of Two Prodigals and Radical Love

Introduction

In 2012, a detailed study into the parallel meanings of the parable of the Prodigal Son ignited a deep passion within me for biblical research. I realized in that moment I had a hunger for finding depth within the Scriptures beyond simply reading the words.  That self discovery was one of the

 primary reasons I started the In-Place Missionary blog to help you, dear reader, look for hidden truths and bits of gold on your own. It’s vital to read the Bible and understand what you profess to believe. It’s a critical piece to understanding your identity in Christ and God’s love for you. The more nuggets of gold you find hidden within the pages, the more God’s nature and love is revealed. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

The Prodigal Son Revelation

I’ve been in a church most of my life, and I’ve probably heard the story of the Prodigal Son over a hundred times (seriously); however, I only knew the parable at its surface: a young, immature son leaves home and spends his inheritance on material things and has to return home to a father who is thankfully happy to have his son back. It took a small group discussion, a close friend with a powerful gift of teaching, and my own follow-up research to realize there is more to the story. Yes, these themes are important; but, as with many other stories and accounts throughout the Bible, there is more to discover than what you initially see.

Theme One — The Lost Son

The first theme of the Prodigal Son parable is the narrative about the youngest son. He grew up with the comforts of his father’s estate and had a responsible, older brother who worked the fields of his father’s property. The young son was eager to see the world at any cost; and, as a result, acted selfishly and foolishly.

In the beginning of the story, the youngest son asked his father for his inheritance, something that was generally not common in that culture until after the father’s death. However, the father agreed to his son’s request; and as quickly as the estate was split between the two heirs, the youngest son left home for his grand adventure in a far away land.

Once he left home, we learn the young man made a series of regrettable mistakes. He quickly squandered his inheritance and indulged in wild living. He lived a lavish life of blissful immaturity and youthful invincibility. However, before long, he ran out of money.

At this point in the story, he probably should have returned home. His pockets and his belly were empty, but his pride and determination likely fueled his decision to stay in the far away land in spite of his dire situation.

Eventually, the wayward son got a job feeding pigs for a farmer. The wage was pitifully small, and he frequently couldn’t afford food for himself. As he felt his hungry stomach ache for a long awaited meal for yet another night, he finally decided to make the long journey home and beg for his father to take him in as a servant to make up for his misdeeds. The young son was surprised when his father hugged him and called him “son”, ignoring the prodigal’s comments on his unworthiness.

I don’t know about you, but I can identify with the younger son. He was immature and strong-willed. He believed he knew what was best for his own life; but, obviously, he didn’t. After he lost all his inheritance, he forgot his identity as a son. He felt undeserving of his father’s love. This loss of identity is evident by his plan to ask his father to allow him to become a servant. Have you been in that place? I have.

Theme Two — The Second Prodigal

The second theme is all about the second prodigal — the older son. He was the dependable, outwardly wiser son who always tried to do things for his father to earn his rightful place.

Once the estate was divided, he decided to remain with his father. His choice to stay home may have appeared virtuous, but his character was revealed in his reaction over his father’s response to his little brother’s homecoming. When he saw a celebration happening for his irresponsible, younger brother, he became angry and said to his father, “All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!” (Luke 15:29‭-‬30)

At this point in the parable, the older brother thought his father would love him more than his brother because his actions were righteous. However, his motivation to take those actions were not pure. The ugly truth about this self-righteous attitude is it caused him to lack compassion for his little brother, compare himself to someone he felt was “less deserving”, and miss what was already available to him. The oldest son already had everything that was of his father’s estate, but he didn’t recognize it because he thought he couldn’t obtain it without first gaining approval (Wow, that hits me right in the heart!).

I can also identify with this second prodigal son. I too am guilty of the religious mindset to earn God’s favor at times. It is important to keep the Lord’s commands and follow His will, but the key question should always be what motivates us to obey the Lord? He cares more about the condition of our hearts than our words and deeds.

Consider the pharisees and how they were portrayed in the New Testament. They thought they were better than everyone who called themselves a Jew because they knew and kept the laws better than most other people could, but they missed the whole reason for following the law (Matthew 22:34-40). Also, take a look at these hard words spoken by Jesus: “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.'” (Matthew 7:21‭-‬22) Simply stated, God wants us to choose to make the right choices as a byproduct of love.

Theme Three — the Unwavering Love of the Father

The third and most important theme of the story is the father’s response to his wayward son. He was patient and longsuffering. He remained loving despite how his son’s choices grieved him, and he continued hoping his son would return to him.

During ancient times, it would have been likely taboo for a son to ask his father for his inheritance. It would have been the equivalent to saying, “I can’t wait for you to die so I can have my portion of the estate and do what I want!” How many times have we had this attitude towards God the Father, and He chooses to love us anyway? The thought makes me weep.

Even after such a hurtful request, the father divided his estate and gave it to his sons. He never berated or belittled the younger son because, out of abundant love, he allowed him to exercise free will. He was old enough to leave home afterall.

This section of the parable reveals an important detail about the nature of God. He’s a gentleman who, out of the truest expression of love, allows us to make our own choices even if they lead us away from Him. He doesn’t coerce or demean to force us to change our minds. Alternately, He grieves for us knowing we’ll have to experience the consequences of poor decisions. Instead of responding with anger, He is filled with compassion. Like the father in this story, He waits every day and night, looking intently for us to come back home. He wants nothing more than for us to return to His embrace.

When the son finally returned home, the Bible says the father saw him “from a long way off.” This detail indicates the father watched for his son, waiting eagerly for him to come home. Although the son expected to grovel at his father’s feet and beg to become a servant, his father restored him to sonship and a place of honor in the family. He dressed the son in the finest robe and placed a ring on his finger (signifying to whose house he belonged and the level of authority given to him). The father even threw a party and feast for his young son!

At this point, you may be asking like I did, “Why would the father not be mad? His son blew all his inheritance. His dad would have been right to be upset. The son didn’t deserve a party. He’s lucky he didn’t have to scrub the floors of his father’s estate for the rest of his life.” This is the part of the story that still amazes me, honestly. The father made a profound statement that provides a clue as to why he’s rejoicing and why Father God does the same with real life prodigals like you and me (my paraphrased summary): “Son, when you left home, it was like you were dead. But now you are home and brought to life again!”

When we make choices that cut us off from God, our source, we wither and die. In contrast, when we return to the Father, we come back to life again. We cannot survive without being connected to the source of our identity and lifeblood (John 15:5). It is only when we realize our desperate need for the Presence of God and a deep relationship with Him that we experience abundant life. Without Him, we are starved like the son trying to make his own way, feeding pigs to survive. Thank goodness for God’s unfailing love!

Final Thoughts

The most transformational meaning from this simple parable is understanding who the Father is and how He sees us. Do we expect God to wait and watch for us to do wrong so He can punish us? Do we expect our sins will cause us to lose our sonship? Do we believe God loses interest in us because we fail Him? He is none of those things, of course, because He is the very definition of love. He is not like earthly fathers who may be well-meaning but flawed. He does not have the same mindset or emotional responses we do. We would be wrong to try to assign human qualities to Him out of our personal perception and experiences with our own fathers.

Son or Daughter of the King, if you’ve made poor choices, feel unworthy or unredeemable, know this: Abba Father is always waiting for you to return home. He longs for your fellowship and companionship although He doesn’t need it. He chooses you anyway! His desire is to draw you back to Himself, bring you back to life, and watch you thrive. He knows that when we are most alive, we are most effective to show others around us the love of Christ and bring restoration to this broken world.

“We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!” – Luke 15:32

With love,

Heather