Greetings everyone, I'm new to the boards, and wanted to take a quick minute to introduce myself. My name is Pete, I'm a 36 y/o married male who lives in WV, US. I think the easiest way to introduce myself is to share something I wrote with you all. It's my testimony of sorts, and will certainly let anyone who is interested know where I come from
Modern Day Prodigal Son
As a child I heard the parable of the prodigal son many times. But it wasn’t until I actually became the prodigal son that I really understood the significance of the story that Jesus was teaching.
In what now seems like another lifetime, I was a very active and dedicated Christian. I graduated from a Christian high school, and served as the chaplain for my senior class. After graduation I went on to bible school, and was active in my local church. In short I was taking the steps that one needed to take to enter the ministry full time. Little did I know at that time that I was about to take a major detour in my life.
Luke 15:13 says “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.” I can relate to this verse in so many ways now, because that is exactly what I did. At some point I became disenfranchised with the church, and turned my back on God. There wasn’t one specific incident or traumatic event that led me to that point in my life. Looking back I can see now that I simply got lazy and allowed myself to be lured away by the appeal of life in the fast lane. We might as well admit that sinning is fun! If it wasn’t, then we wouldn’t have nearly the risk of getting swept up in it. And that’s exactly what happened to me. Sure, early on I would feel the nagging sensation that I was making a HUGE mistake. The Holy Spirit tried to convict me, to get me to turn around and return to God. But I refused to listen, and at some point God let’s his children make their mistakes. He doesn’t abandon us, we abandon him, or at least I abandoned Him.
Over the next several years I lived my life by the American creed of “look out for number one!” I did exactly what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it, and I was, quite simply, miserable. Oh sure, on the outside everything looked great. I have a pretty outgoing personality and can put on the mask of happiness whenever I choose. So most of my friends would have had no idea how unhappy I was inside. Unhappy really doesn’t even begin to describe it. I was tormented and miserable. But I was also extremely stubborn and refused to change my direction.
Predictably, my attitude cost me a great deal. Before long I was unemployed, homeless, and living on the streets. “He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.” (Luke 15:16) I didn’t realize it then, but now I can see the parallel so clearly! I had chosen to walk away from my true home and ended up with absolutely nothing to show for it. But even then I wasn’t willing to turn around. Fortunately for me God continued to watch over me, despite my complete disregard for Him. He had a plan for me; I just didn’t realize it at the time.
After spending two years homeless, and overcoming many obstacles, slowly things started to come together in my life. I started working again, and was able to start becoming a productive member of society. I even dabbled in church a little, but wasn’t anywhere near what I would consider a dedicated Christian. I was a pew filler, and nothing more. But I must admit that having come from where I was, life was certainly a great deal better!
Over the next several years I went about life without many cares, and certainly with little thought or concern about God. I wasn’t rich by any stretch of the imagination, but I was making a decent living and was becoming more and more successful and comfortable. Now that my physical needs were well under control, I once again started feeling the longing inside for a more spiritual existence. Once again I decided that the church and Christianity weren’t for me. I just couldn’t reconcile inside of myself the blatant hypocrisy that I saw in so many “Christian” people that I knew. They could quote the Bible with the best of them on Sunday, and than cuss like a drunken sailor on Monday. If that was what being a Christian was all about, then I decided I wanted nothing to do with it. There had to be something real, something true, and something that would fill this void that I felt growing inside of me. So I set out searching to find that “something”.
I began devouring as many books as I could get my hands on about other religions. Each of them taught me something about myself and about God, but in the end they proved to be hollow. No matter how hard I tried to make something fit for me, it just didn’t. Don’t get me wrong, there was some level of fulfillment, or else I wouldn’t have continued on that path. But even as I walked along these other paths I could sense that something was missing.
Fast forward about five years. At this point I was once again so far removed from Christ that whatever feelings I may have had for him at one time in my life was but a distant memory. If you would have told me then that Christ wasn’t finished with me yet, and that someday soon I would do a complete 180 and begin serving him again, I would have told you that you were absolutely certifiably nuts! So convinced was I that Christianity was just not the answer for me that I had ruled out ever returning to church. If there was an answer, I would find it, but it wasn’t going to be there. Boy was I wrong!
It started out so quietly that I didn’t even see it coming, but as I look back I can see the hand of God moving in my life. It was like God was saying “Ok, you’ve played long enough son, now it’s time to get to work!” Remember, at this point the word “Christian” was a turn off for me, so God worked around my ignorance. I started to study the Gnostic Tradition, thinking that maybe I could find some answers there. This once again exposed me to Jesus and his teachings, though admittedly from a much different angle than what I had previously studied. But it was “safe” because it wasn’t the dogmatic Christianity that I had turned my back on, so I continued my studies. Apparently that little crack in my armor was all that Jesus needed. Over the next year my studies gradually turned more towards Jesus, his teachings and his life. I wrestled with Jesus, the Bible, God… everything.
Meanwhile, my wife’s family began attending church, and on visits home we would join them. You would have to know my in-laws to really appreciate the significance of this change in their lives, but suffice it to say this was a pretty huge change for them. And it ultimately led to a really big change for me. I watched as I saw each of them growing, not only individually but as a family. I watched as God moved in their lives, as they overcame their own struggles and addictions, and became much happier and more at peace. Simply put I saw the power of Jesus in a way that I hadn’t seen in many years.
As I began to watch their growth, I began to look at my own life a little harder. Could it be that all this time I had been wrong? Maybe the church wasn’t the problem to begin with; maybe it was my own expectations and ignorance that had caused me to turn away? No, I was just being silly. Remember, this isn’t where I’m going to find my answers. Is it?
“I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.” (Luke 15:17-18)
As it turns out, any wrestling match that involves God can only have one outcome. I certainly won’t say that I lost, because this was the biggest victory I had ever experienced! I’ll never understand why God didn’t just give up on me. I mean, after all he had given me more chances to turn back to him than I had deserved. I had spent over ten years rejecting Him, trying to fill His place in my life with something else. But He remained ever faithful, and continued to chip away at my heart of stone, until one day I just had no choice but to fall to my knees, cry out to him, and beg for his forgiveness. Tears streamed down my face as all of the sorrow inside of me couldn’t wait to be released. The tears just kept coming, and I began to see where the hand of God had been on me all through this journey, even though I had refused to recognize it. What an amazing love!
Finally I was able to compose myself, or maybe I had just cried for so long that I ran out of tears. And then, the most amazing thing happened!
“”But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)
It was an absolutely indescribable moment! There simply aren’t words available to sufficiently express what happened. All I can say is that God wrapped his arms around me and said “Welcome home!” No guilt trip, no heavenly “I told you so”, nothing of the sort. I could feel the peace of God coming over me and knew that I was not only forgiven, but accepted back into His family and returned to my place as His son!
You see, God wanted me to turn back to him for so long. He had continued to work in my life and give me ample opportunities, which until recently I had rejected. But when I did finally come to my senses and reach out for Him, He was standing right there waiting to pick me up. And he is there waiting to pick you up as well. If you have been struggling with God, wrestling with Him and His plan for your life, know that all you have to do is turn back to Him and He will be right there waiting for you! And I can promise you one thing; you will NOT regret it for a minute!
Sure, you may struggle as you regain your footing, but He will never leave you or forsake you. Maybe you feel like there is no way that God could forgive you for what you have done. Well, my friend, there is nothing that God isn’t willing to forgive, if we are just willing to ask Him to. If He was willing to forgive someone who had turned his back on Him for over ten years, certainly He will forgive you, and welcome you back home just as He did me. You see, God knows we are going to make mistakes. He knows that we are going to reject Him, and go off on our own way. God knows everything, for after all, He’s God! But He loves us so much that he’s ready, willing and desires to forgive us, if we’ll just turn back to Him.
Are you feeling that knock at your heart’s door? Can you feel Him working in your life, giving you opportunities to turn back to Him? Are you ready to stop running and come back home? If so, He’s standing right there next to you, ready to wrap his arms around you and welcome you back home! All you have to do is ask!