They happen every once in a while. God catches me unawares and brings new richness into something I already knew, or teaches me a new thing and makes something I have been struggling with, just gel.
We were talking about something or other and someone mentioned the expression, "What a waste." Nobody in the class (except the teacher) knew how to say that in French. And then he told us it was the verb "prodiguer" (prod-ee-GAY) from which we get the word "prodigal". The sense was of recklessly wasting good food, or carelessly wasting one's life on frivolities and things that don't matter.
I'd always thought of the story of the prodigal son (told by Jesus in the gospel of Luke) as that of "the returning son." It's the only context I'd ever heard it. But this word means wasteful. The guy went to his dad, said in effect, "I can't wait for you to die; I want my inheritance now," which is something that a grown child had the right to do in that culture, and then he proceeded to waste it.
And waste it he did - he wasted it ALL. When he finally came to himself and realized how bad off he was, his only thought was to fill his belly, to have his basic needs provided. He knew his dad was good to the hired servants, so he wanted a job and a place to sleep. That's all. He knew his inheritance was blown; he had no right to ask for anything more under the law of that day. Yet he knew that his dad - if he hired him - would be decent to him. So he came back, expecting nothing. Carrying nothing. Smelling like pig poop. Wasted.
The Bible tells us that the father saw him coming from a long way off, and ran - not walked, RAN - to meet him; he fell on his neck and kissed him, pig poop and all. He didn't give him a job. Instead, he treated him with honor and with respect, threw a party and let everyone know that this dirty, stinky person who had wasted everything his father had given him including his father's reputation, had never lost his status as a son. Wouldn't even let his son finish his carefully-prepared speech. All was forgiven; it had been forgiven the moment the son asked for the money... though he didn't know it at the time.
God's love is like that and more - God's forgiveness is like that - and WAY more.
When we were still in darkness, when we were still walking away, when we were wasting His wondrous and passionate love for us ... He never gave up on us, He gave it all for us... He waited for us to come to the end of ourselves and turn back to Him. And when we did, there was absolutely no condemnation, but instead, acceptance and undeserved kindness. The Bible calls that kind of magnanimous attitude, that kind of lavish love, "grace." Jesus told the story of the prodigal son to demonstrate the Father's love for us, whether we waste His love in loose living or in rules and regulations ( as the older brother did in the story. ) It's extended to us no matter what our background, no matter where we have been, what we have done (or haven't done), what's been done to us, and what we feel about ourselves or about others. No matter what labels are on our baggage, His love can pierce the locks, press through the wastefulness, and restore us to a relationship with Him and set us free from the chains on our hearts.
I'm so very glad.