A Runner’s Creative Retelling

Are you a runner? I was.

During High School and the first part of College I competed in track and field competitions often coming in first in sprinting the 400 meters and long distance running. I feel I was a much better long distance runner but you would have guessed I hung the moon with how people were acting when I competed in the other events.

I used to not get along with my family very well. My dad wanted me to go into the family business. It just wasn’t for me. I mean I have an older brother and my dad has several hired hands. Did my dad really need me to help with everyone else helping out? I wish I would have helped out now. I would have much rather helped under my dad’s guidance rather than the under the authority of some of my other boss that I’ve had. Have you heard of unjust bosses? Well, he was the worst—but I will get to that in a little bit. I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

Well, where do I begin to tell you my story? I guess every good story starts out at the beginning, right? It all began one day twenty eight years ago when my mother was in the hospital giving birth to me…what? Not that far back. Okay. Well, I guess I could start when my trouble all began! Sure, it may not seem like it was trouble at first, but trust me that it was. I’m just glad that my dad loved me enough not to lay me out right there where I stood.

“I’m tired of this! I don’t want to go into YOUR business!” I said in an irritated tone.

“I’m sorry, but as long as you live under my roof you’re going to participate with the family and take part in the family business. I’m not in this business for me you know. I’m running things like I am so that way you can have a better life that I had.” Dad said.

I sat there for a minute contemplating what I had to say, “But, what if I don’t want to live under your roof?”

You could cut the tension in the room with a knife. I can’t believe that I told my father that I wanted to move out. It was like I had just taken the air right out of my father. I thought that he would for sure tell me off. The only thing he did say was, “Okay. If that’s what you want.”

Really, that’s all he was going to say. If I wanted to leave then I could. I don’t know if my response was quite what he was expecting, or maybe it was. Maybe in my father’s wisdom he knew what I would and how I would respond. Looking back, that is characteristic of my father. As I was growing up my dad would oftentimes use events in mine and my brother’s lives to teach us moral life lessons. He thought he was doing us a service. He thought that he was helping us become the “godly” men that he wanted us to become. He thought that he was teaching us good moral behavior from our bad experiences. He was right. I see that now. But, I digress—I’m sure that you want me to tell you my response to my dad’s response.

I said, “Father, give me my share of the estate.” I said this as a test. I thought ‘surely he was going to tell me no’, or ‘surely he will tell me be quiet and do what he says’. That wasn’t what he did at all. Not only did it shock me but it shocked my brother too. My dad divided up everything that he had. He divided his land, money, servants, etc. Everything that was most precious to him he divided up.

It wasn’t too long after that that I did something that I regret. I gathered up my portion of the estate, withdrew from school, and moved out of my father’s house to start my own life, in a new land, not in my father’s business. And what did my dad do? Nothing. Sure, he said his goodbye’s; but, he didn’t do anything more than that besides wish me luck. As I left that house I remember what my dad was doing. He sat on the porch watching me go, and what did I do? I never looked back.

I was 21 years old when I moved out on my own. I thought that I knew everything that there was to know, and acquiring wealth was going to be just as easy for me as it had been for my father. So, I headed out and wanted to get as far into civilization as possible and as far away from my father’s business. Originally, I’m from Texas but I packed my stuff up and headed to California—the land of opportunity—to spend my time and money there. Once I got to my destination I stayed in the nicest hotels with the nicest views. It was the life and I was living the dream. I spent my days laying on the beach and my nights in the casino drinking and partying until the morning.

Everything was going well until…

I had everything that a guy could ask for wealth, women, and luck on my side until one day when my luck finally ran out. It took me a couple of years, but it finally ran out. I thought that I would never see the end of my wealth. My life was literally and physically in ruin. I had nothing left: no money, no women, no fun, and what seemed like no future. I have found out how amazing it really is when the friends you make when living wildly will leave you in a heartbeat when the purse strings get cut.

It was time to work. I had no money; so, it was time to face the music, and go to work. I applied for odd jobs here and there but nothing ever came to fruition. On top of everything else, I was living in a homeless shelter and there was a drought in the region where I was which made it ten times harder to find work. After a while, I finally found work for this guy that had a business working with animals. My title was chief bacon preparation handler—in short—I slopped hogs! To make it much better, I was the only one in charge of feeding all the pigs. There wasn’t much to be chief over.

And, that’s where I am now Porky. At that moment a pig snorts. I’m really living the dream, aren’t I? I haven’t eaten in three days and Porky is starting to look like bacon. I’m starving to death. This job stinks; it’s much worse than my father’s servants have to deal with. They get to have three meals a day, and then have plenty to spare!

That’s it. I have an idea. I will go back to my father and when I get there I will tell him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.” That’s what I’ll do.

So, I got up and went. Meanwhile, back at my father’s house…

My dad never ceased to watch for me from the porch of the house. He would tell me that he missed me terribly and it took everything within him not to come get me and save me from myself, but he knew what I needed, and he knew—deep down—that I would be back.

I got within eyeshot of my father’s house, and looked toward it; it was there that I noticed my father. I think he noticed me at the same time because he jumped up and off the porch; then, he started running toward me. I had never seen my father run before, but he was taking out after me like a hound dog after a flock of wild geese.

I heard him yell, “My son!” and then a little bit latter, “It’s my son who was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

As I was still walking; he was still running. You know that feeling you get right before they lay your child in your arms for the very first time. That’s how I felt right before dad hugged me and started kissing me. Even though I didn’t tell him then, I could tell that he had been waiting for me a long time to come home.

It was nearly eight years since I had been home to see my family and there was a definite flood of emotion flowing through my being. Oh, how I missed my family back home. And, before I could get off the speech that I had rehearsed in my head on the way home; my dad said something surprising, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals for his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of min was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

I couldn’t believe my eyes and ears. My dad threw this huge celebration in my honor even after all that I had done. My father didn’t say, “Let’s make him a hired hand.” He called me ‘son’. Even after all that I had done…he called me son.

My brother told me about this later but he had been standing outside of the house while we were celebrating. He said that whenever he found out that I was back and the celebration was for me he become indignant and refused to go inside to celebrate with me. To tell you the truth; I wouldn’t blame him. With everything that I had done, I was still trying to swallow all that my father was doing for me myself.

I noticed dad leave the party to go check on my older brother outside. He was out there bickering to himself thinking about how dad never gave him so much as a small goat to celebrate with and yet he gave me the fattened calf.

My brother had said angrily, “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!”

My father replied to him, “My son you are always with me, and everything that I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Maybe you relate to this story in some way. Maybe your life looks a lot like the son in this story that is spending all of his time on things that don’t matter and have eventually got him into a whole mess of trouble. I just wanted to tell you that your heavenly Father is sitting and waiting for you to come home so he can celebrate with you. God is a good father never pushing himself on anyone. Like the father in this story gave his son the choice to come home when he was ready and tired of living his life in the pig pen of sin; God too has been waiting for you to make your way back home so he could celebrate, and every Christian with him, for YOUR return.

Luke 15:7 says, “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

Story Reference: Luke 15:11-32 (The Parable of the Lost Son)

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