I love a good ‘prodigal’ story. It’s a storyline that’s present in some form or another in maybe 50%+ of every movie or TV show (and I’ve read one example before in a book called ‘Luke,’ in case you’re into reading).
There is always a character that is unhappy about something; some part of their circumstance is seemingly wrong. So then this character sets out to find change. And as they do so, mistakes are made. Typically in pop culture, this looks like some really hasty decision. Taking the wrong partner in a relationship, stomping up to the office to tell off the boss, physically confronting an enemy…generally they’ll do something immediately regrettable, something so obvious to all of us onlookers.
But of course that’s only the first half of the movie/book/commercial/sporting event/video game/cheesy-Facebook-post. There’s another element to the story that we all know and love: the Second Chance.
Who doesn’t like second chances??? I know they’re cliché, but I really don’t care. Seeing characters conquer fears, right their wrongs, and make something out of nothing inspires me. These stories give us hope, and anything that spreads hope (like maybe the Gospel?) has real appeal to hurting people (know any of those???). But unfortunately it seems like more and more media are steering away from the second chance story, opting instead for the trendier ‘EXTREME RAW FAILURE!’ footage so we can all better relate and commiserate.
Misery is easy. I’ve been there. It’s way easier than working hard to create a way to get out of it. Complaining is easy too. Thinking the grass is always greener? So easy. Just ask that Prodigal Son in Luke 15. Just ask the entire nation of Israel in the Old Testament.
If you’re in youth ministry, God has put you right there in that place. Maybe you’ll be in that place for a couple months; maybe it’ll be more like an entire career. But I know that it’s easy to be right in the middle of it, to look around and think, “Man, this is rough. I’m not so sure I’m cut out for this.”
Today, undeniably, youth ministry is part of your journey. It’s an important step in the way that God has led you to reach your destiny, the part of God’s mission for His Kingdom that He’s allotted to you.
When I hear the word ‘journey,’ it has many Christian-ese connotations for me…and Homeward Bound flashbacks… But usually Jeremiah 29:11 comes to mind. Then there’s the obligatory, “Just trust God! He’ll make a way! He’ll make your path straight! He’ll order your steps!”
I don’t know about you, but all those truths are hard to swallow sometimes. Especially when things don’t seem as awesome as you’d hoped.
Recently I was reading in Romans, and I saw this:
3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. (Romans 5:3-5, NLT)
I’m like, “Hmm, OK God. So you’re saying because things are sort of tough right now, I’m actually going to benefit from it all. And in the end, my hope is going to be stronger than it was before?”
There’s always a second chance, even if you’ve already used it. There’s always opportunity to make better out of a rough situation.
I feel like that’s almost obvious though, something that most of us believe. The real problem lies in knowing what to do next. What direction is the right step? What ‘right’ will fix the ‘wrong’? What are we really supposed to do?
I’m not going to pretend to know the answer to that question. If you know, please respond and let me know as soon as possible.
God laid out that process which leads us to hope (and countless other verses in Scripture) to let us know that we can trust Him. That’s about as simple as it gets. So aside from getting some very specific revelation from the Holy Spirit about our direction, we’re asked to trust our Father, trusting in His love for us.
To bring it back to the second-chance laden journey of the Prodigal, he did the only thing he knew to do. He went home.
Jeremiah 29 says this (and no, I’m not quoting that verse):
12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. 14 I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.” (Jeremiah 29:12-14, NLT)
God has been showing me that sometimes He wants us home, and I don’t mean moving back in with your parents (if you’ve even moved out yet…).
Home is where we remember where we came from. Home is where we can feel safe, accepted, at ease. Home is where we reflect on all God has done in our lives. Home is where we are reminded of all the promises that have been spoken into our lives, the dreams, the destiny.
“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 91:1, NLT)
Home is where we find our rest.
If you’re feeling like you’re in a time of anti-rest, where things are spinning or confusing, where everything is exhausting you, just go home. Go to where your Dad lives. He’s already made time and space for you and can’t wait to let you know how much He loves you.
Wherever you are on your journey, don’t forget to stop home and check in with Dad. Maybe even like all time, every day. We can’t ever lose sight of how great it is to be home.
Dave began his story in western-NY, moved on to Pennsylvania for a while, and God brought him back home a few years ago. He met his wife Jessica at Grove City College, and they got married after graduation. Almost 10 years later, Dave, Jess, Aden (5), Lila (almost 3), and Micah (8 mo.) live in a suburb of Buffalo, NY close to where Dave grew up. Dave has been in and around church ministry since he was in middle school, working with youth for the last 10 years. Aside from chasing after God, his wife, and his kids, sports, cooking, music, and reading fill up the rest of his life. And good strong coffee constantly fills his soul.