by Karen Berry
A dear friend was recently in the hospital and kept asking one question, “When can I go home?”
Although she knew she was getting the needed treatment in the hospital, she craved the comfort of her own home.
Many times, even on a regular day, when I feel tired, stressed, disappointed, persecuted, confused, or under the weather, I long for the minute we can leave the world behind and return to the place I call home.
There’s a powerful story about coming home that Jesus tells his disciples. This parable is called the Prodigal Son Luke 15:11-32. It is about a wayward, self-centered son who went away and lived a sinful life leading to misery. In desperation, he decided to come home and was miraculously welcomed with a celebration.
Many times when I have looked at this story, I immediately cast judgment on this selfish son. But, recently, God has brought to my attention that I have more in common with this character than I would like to admit. Many times I lack trust in God’s plan and say, “My will be done,” instead of “Thy will be done. Often, I hold tight to the things in my life that I should totally surrender to God. Then, when things get really hard or too messy to handle, I come running back to God and want to stay wrapped in His arms where I feel safe, secure, and filled with peace.
Claiming his promise, The LORD is my refuge; my God is the rock of my protection. Psalm 94:22
This week I am focusing on a sacred season that is about to begin. This Wednesday, Feb 22nd, begins the season of Lent. Many Christians observe the season of Lent, which is 40 days of prayer, repentance, and a time of preparation for the Easter celebration. It is about “coming home” and remembering the cornerstone of Christianity- the great love of Jesus, who died for our sins and rose again to eternal life.
Growing up, we were encouraged to give up something we loved during Lent. Most years, I gave up something sweet: chocolate, candy, or dessert. I have always been a natural sweet tooth, and to this day, it is a huge challenge for me to go without sugar and sweets. Giving up or “fasting” from something is a great way to honor God. Through fasting, we are working on our spiritual growth by giving up things we physically desire. As we turn to prayer and look to our Lord and Savior for strength, we learn that what we really need comes only from Him. In today’s age, we have so many distractions right at our fingertips. If you are considering fasting from something this Lent, take today and tomorrow to evaluate where your time is spent. If you are like me, I am constantly shocked when I realize how much time I spend on Instagram or how I can justify watching one more episode on Netflix even though I have to rush through my morning time with the LORD. Let’s ask God for the self-discipline to do this, believing in His promise that says,
“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7
Another Lenton practice is adding something that would draw us near to Jesus. Some examples are working through a Bible study that you complete during Lent or reading through all four Gospels. Many apps, podcasts, and videos are specifically created for Lent and are offered through Christian organizations and websites. Or, if you don’t already begin your day in prayer, try setting your alarm 15 minutes earlier, and create the space to start your day connecting with Jesus. Humbly come before Him, share your joys and sorrows, and see how it changes your life.
Psalm 145:18 reminds us, “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.”
Another excellent idea is to look for a place in your community to serve others. Helping others in need is a way to serve Jesus, our great teacher and savior, who said,
“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Matthew 25:40
As Christian brothers and sisters, we are asked to encourage one another. Please add to these suggestions and share your ideas and wisdoms below in the comment sections. This year for Lent, I feel God calling me to focus on the promise that He is my Home. I’m committing to a daily reading of the parable of the Prodigal Son Luke 15;11-32, along with a book by Henri Nouwen called The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming. This book is all about coming home to our Lord. If you are looking for your next read and/or feel led to do a deep dive into the parable of the Prodigal Son, I invite you to join me. Let’s begin on Ash Wednesday by praying, reading the scripture daily, working through the book, and journaling about what God shares with us.
Each Monday during the season of Lent, I will have a few notes/questions about the reading at the bottom of the Pause & Pray email. I would also love to hear and share what God is teaching you through this parable. Please email me at email@example.com and put Prodigal Son in the subject line. Together we can see what God intends to teach us about Humility, Repentance, Forgiveness, Unconditional Love, and Amazing Grace, and also learn the importance of celebrating others' good fortune.
Father God, Thank you for helping me carve out time for prayer, repentance, fasting, drawing near to you, and giving to others. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Psalm 25:5. Amen.
*quick disclaimer. I haven’t read through the entire book yet. A Christian friend recommended it, and I saw it as a confirmation that God wanted me to spend time reading and reflecting on the parable of the Prodigal Son and the theme of Coming Home.