The Rescue: A Trilogy of Faith – The Prodigal
The younger son packed all his belongings and took a trip to a distant land…
In May of ’95, I threw my arms up in the air and turned my back on God. At this time, I felt overwhelmed and unsure about what I was doing in life. There were many desires I had which seemed impossible to ever have filled. I thought my life was passing me by. I was 25, had braces, felt ugly, was overweight, felt like a failure, hated myself and how I looked, was self-conscious, envious and resentful of others who had what I wanted, believed that my desire for a right relationship and marriage was impossible, and I was unsure of my future and career.
The reason I stuck around here with my Christian fellowship, I began to believe, was because I needed financial security (I roomed with and split the rent with my sister and two of our friends). I hated how I felt most of the time and to medicate my feelings, I would overeat and then would try to exercise to make up for it. I wished I could live by myself, and could not stop thinking about myself. I felt trapped and out of control and like I was always walking on eggshells to avoid rejection. I did not care about God or anyone else. Feeling desperate for an escape, I began to wish I could leave.
My problem was that I kept all this stirring inside and was not honest about it. I began to believe that I was better off before I turned my life over to God and was beginning to forget about the rebellious life I had come from–I had misused alcohol, drugs, and relationships with men. It seemed to me that my life was better then–I was free. I didn’t want to fight any more, I just wanted an escape. I didn’t think I had an alternative place to go, yet I didn’t want to stay.
Family and friends in my fellowship cared about me and were concerned. They knew something was not right with me because I was quiet, withdrawn, unhappy, and isolating. The bottom line was that my cup was not running over; I was not resting in the freedom of Christ in me. This was obvious to others and they tried to give me a true picture. Instead of accepting others’ view of my situation, I rebelled and held onto my own view. I wanted to escape and "make it on my own." I did not want to hear the fact that at this point in my life, I wasn’t financially ready to live by myself.
A faithful friend tried to make me understand that these desires were okay and could be possible in God’s time. I would not trust God that if my desires were right with Him, He would work out the details. I held on tight to what I thought I wanted, an escape from everyone–my family, fellowship, church, everything that reminded me of my new life.
It seemed like God was saying to me, "What’s it going to be?" I finally got fed up enough to say, Forget it. I’m not doing this any more. Anything is better than this. I wanted to be "free," whatever that meant; I wanted to get away from pain. I wanted it more than anything else–"my way or the highway."
And there he wasted all his life on wild living
I got an apartment and for a while I really did feel free. I was thrilled I did not have to face anyone, be phony, or be accountable. I no longer had to battle between what I wanted to do and what I thought I should do. I could come and go as I pleased; I didn’t have to be around anyone and could do whatever I wanted with my free time; go out whenever I wanted to. I had escaped!
But freedom like this has a price. I was lonely. I went from having lots of people around who were interested in me to no one. Ironically, I had no free time to go out because of the two jobs I was working to pay the rent. I was exhausted all the time. I could only think and care about myself. I was paranoid and didn’t trust anyone. When I met people I thought, if they really knew me, they wouldn’t want to be around me.
Other fears crowded in: How could l meet a man who was interested in marrying me? Guys like that are interested in meeting my family. I had cut off all of my friends and even my mother and sister. The family members I was in touch with, I used for my own ends. I was anxious and had trouble sleeping, always waiting for the axe to drop–waiting for the worst. I didn’t really know what it would be. Maybe something would happen really bad that would be irreversible. That would be it. No more chances.
He began to be in need…
In November, I had surgery. Originally Mom had agreed to help me financially and help me recuperate. Now, however, she said that if I refused to turn from the path I had chosen, God had made it clear to her that she was not to be involved with my surgery in any way. I felt furious–she was pressuring me. I even admired her for taking the hard line, yet I still held on to my way.
I felt very powerless the day of surgery. Even though it was not a life-threatening operation, I was afraid God might take my life. And I knew it was not going to be good to face God. I remember thinking that if I woke up from my surgery, it was because God had a reason for it. When I opened my eyes in the recovery room, I was relieved. I felt a little hope.
That spring, my sister, Sheryl, made attempts to reach out to me. I’m sure I came across as angry because I always felt protective and paranoid. When Sheryl offered to walk with me, it seemed risky, but I thought I could easily leave if she brought up anything about God to me. I wanted to see her, though, and agreed to meet her.
When we first started walking, I kept a strong guard up. I did not want her telling me that I was wrong and she was concerned. I wanted her to see that I was "fine." I wondered why she acted decent to me, and I was glad to see her. Because I felt threatened that she would catch a glimpse of what was really going on, I was selective about what I said to her.
Then Sheryl called me to ask me to dinner. I went more out of curiosity than anything, sure that she would start lecturing me. But I wanted to see what she really wanted. I told her it was no use talking to me about anything because I didn’t want to hear it. I was angry and uncaring. I didn’t want to give up the freedom I had gained and still believed I was better off now.
And here I am, dying of hunger
However, in the summer of 1996, I started experiencing more consequences. I was going further into financial debt and was dissatisfied with my life or any solutions I could come up with for my future. My general attitude was I really don’t care.
I was spending time in bars, drinking more and more, was getting into sinful relationships, and finding myself in situations I didn’t always want to be in. I was right back in the sin life I had come out of, and hating it. I was using people to make myself feel better, while pretending to genuinely care about them. Here I was, phony again! I felt out of control. When I stopped to think about it all, I began to see that what I was doing did not equal what I really wanted.
By this time, I had experienced all the things I had wanted when I left, and realized that they were not my true wants. This was most apparent to me when I was in the middle of a bar full of people wondering, What’s the point of all this? Everything I wanted–approval, acceptance, beauty, popularity–they all pass away. I’m 26. Do 1 want to be doing this in five years? What about my deep desires for a family? For God? How are these needs going to be met hanging out with this crowd? I knew I didn’t have what it took to care for another person or raise a family. My thought processes were changing as I was getting more honest with myself, asking What do I really want? I knew I had a God-shaped vacuum in me–a gnawing emptyness inside that nothing in this world could fill.
This summer, Sheryl came to see me after work. I sat in her car while she read two testimonies I had written for The Intercessor years earlier. I knew I could leave at any moment, but felt like something held me. It was hard to believe that what I was hearing I had actually written. I wondered if I had really written it, but knew I had and that what I had said was true for me at a time in the past. I discounted it by thinking, Yeah, right! It was true for me then, but not now. I also thought, It’s a shame that it’s not true for me now. I’m sure I acted cold and reserved, in spite of what I was feeling. I told Sheryl that I meant it when I wrote it, but that was then and this is now. It might be true for me again, but not now. Impossible. I kept holding to what I considered a fact: I didn’t know what I wanted. But I did know that I didn’t want to go back to the way I was when I left–phony, wanting to escape, but pretending the opposite. But I asked Sheryl for copies of the testimonies thinking that I might one day want something different. My only hope was that my wants had to change.
And when he came to himself
In September, Mom called and invited me to supper. I hadn’t seen my mother since she appeared at my apartment one day. Her voice had sounded so familiar and warm and right. Even though I definitely felt drawn to her, I acted angry and protective and ended up being mean.
Having dinner with her felt risky, so I stalled. My thoughts swung back and forth. By this time I was wanting a way out: I didn’t want to do what I was doing any more, but I didn’t want to do what I thought it would take to change. I wanted Mom and my sister to be part of my life, but I did not want to be part of a "fellowship." I knew I was still out for myself; everything I wanted was still for me. Yet I knew that I could not change myself or make myself care. It seemed as though I was on one side of a canyon, wanting to get to the other side. But I had no idea how I could get there and felt unsure of my willingness to take the risk.
My only hope was God. My greatest fear was that if I threw myself onto God, maybe what He wanted for me would not be what I wanted. Finally, I was honest enough to play it out–going God’s way was much more hopeful than the alternative. I was living the alternative and it was a dead end. Maybe this was God’s way out for me. I decided to check it out.
I will arise and go to my father
The night of our dinner, I backed my car into the driveway, making sure I could get out of there fast if I wanted to. I felt weird going up the steps. The last time I had been here, I was frantically packing, racing up and down the steps, trying to load my stuff in the car, terrified someone would show up. Yet here I was again. This is so strange! What am I doing? I didn’t want to be trapped into making a decision I wasn’t ready for. I was not going to be talked into anything. That would be a waste of time. I had said to God, I’m not planting my feet anywhere until I am sure I will not pick them up again.
I didn’t expect what I saw when I walked in the door–light! bright! life! Such a contrast to my dark, damp apartment! Everything looked alive and clean and nice. On the table were the framed photos of friends and a picture on the wall painted by Sheryl and me. I felt like I was thawing out, but I was trying to keep my composure. It struck me that Mom was more of a person than I’d ever seen her. When I went into my old room, Sheryl patted the bed and said, "It’s just waiting for you." Yeah, that would be too good to be true. I still didn’t know how to get across that canyon.
At some point during dinner, Sheryl started talking about how painful my leaving had been for her. Then Mom and Sheryl talked about what it would mean for the rest of our family if the three of us were standing shoulder-to-shoulder in faith for them. Something was softening in me, but I didn’t show it. I had been clinging to the hope that God could do something big for me in the future. I didn’t dream it would happen that night or even that year. I hoped it wouldn’t be on my deathbed.
I have sinned against heaven and in your sight
But Sheryl was saying, "This is it. You can do something right now." Something was said about honesty, and before I knew it, I was spilling my guts out confessing my sin. As each detail came to mind, I’d think, Don’t hold back! Just get it out! I still don’t know how I got across that canyon. It seemed as though it was 99% God and 1% me. It’s like I was in a dark hole clinging for all I was worth. God let down a line. I grabbed onto the line, and I was out of there. Immediately, I felt free!
Mom and Sheryl asked me to stay at the apartment that night and I agreed. And for that night I didn’t want to go back to my apartment. I didn’t know what was going to happen in the next minute, much less the future. Mom left and Sheryl and I stayed up, talking.
This brother of yours was dead, and is alive again!
At 1 a.m., my friend Ginny called and asked to speak to me. I said, "What are you doing calling me? You want to talk to me?" Mom had called her after leaving us. Ginny sounded so excited for me because I was free. She asked if I would come over; a group of friends were still up. Come over?! Is this really happening? This was the very thing I dreaded and thought was impossible. Now I wanted to see everyone but didn’t know how. It was as though God was saying, "This is the opportunity you’ve been wanting. Here it is! Go for it!" Why not!
Walking to the door, I felt scared–like the biggest idiot–but humble. I had no big speech to say, even though I knew I had wronged everybody. I had expected to have to do some big penance thing. But when I walked in all I heard was, "Welcome home! Good for you!" They were glad I was freed from the bondage I was in. It seemed natural to be around again: I felt 100% clean and like I was home! This was what I truly wanted and knew I didn’t deserve. I never thought this day would come.
He was lost but now is found!
As I wrote this, I found it hard to go back and relive the details of my sin. But by doing so, I have been able to see and experience some of the pain and suffering that others who cared about me went through on the receiving end of my sin. I can begin to understand the heartache, disappointment, and pain others had as they believed for me the truth I refused to believe for myself.
Today I am remorseful about my sin choices and their consequences, yet thrilled and grateful that God has freed me from this bondage and will live the life I cannot. I know there is no good in me, but the joy I have is the realization that I’m not just me; Christ lives in me. I’m merely His vessel to move about in. I know peace now in contrast to the desperation I knew when I rebelled against God. I learned that if Jesus Christ is not living my life, Satan is. There is no middle way–no such thing as "free-dom." I ran away from God, thinking I was in bondage. But slavery to this "freedom" drove me back to God, the only freedom there is.
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 13 No 2
- Summing It Up
- Editor’s Note
- Moments with Meryl
- A Look at a Book
- "Having nothing, yet possessing everything."
- The Rescue: A Trilogy of Faith – The Prodigal
- The Rescue: A Trilogy of Faith – A Sister’s Faith
- The Rescue: A Trilogy of Faith – Reunion
- Tape Talk
- Questions & Answers
- The Total Remedy
- The Mailbox
- Words to Live By…