Maybe it was the pout on my face that convinced a mentor administering a fresh dose of advice to issue a friendly reminder from across the dinner table.
“We’re all broken,” she said gently after listening to my grievance. “It’s a matter of deciding how much and what type of brokenness you can live with.”
I agree with that. There are broken relationships, broken bank accounts, broken hearts, broken paths to success, and broken spirits. We’re all humanly flawed and imperfect in some ways. As I prepared to write this blog entry, the prodigal son (or daughter) kept coming to my mind. I see him (or her) standing at the end of a long driveway. His father is at the other end, in shock at the visible transformation of the child who betrayed him. He’s physically and emotionally emaciated. Humility rests squarely on his shoulders. This parable Jesus shared with tax collectors isn’t new. It’s about turning away from the wayward path, asking for forgiveness, and granting grace.
It’s also about repairing what’s broken.
Prodigal means to be foolish with time and money. We can also add being foolish with people to the mix. He’s wasted his inheritance, the very thing his father wanted to give him at the appropriate time. He’s carelessly spent his money, wasted valuable time wandering in the ways of the world. His poverty and isolation bring him to a point of hunger that makes him desire the breakfast of pigs instead of the breakfast of champions. He begins to recognize that he’s not only broke but more importantly, broken.
How so? Well, he’s selfish for starters. He’s self-indulgent, emotionally immature, insensitive and mean-spirited given how he treated those who love him.
Again, we’re all broken and flawed. Some of us are more broken than others. Sometimes we’re broken because of the mistakes of other people. Anyone who has survived a traumatic event, a troubled childhood, or a bad marriage can relate to this.
But when our brokenness exceeds whatever is good in us and whatever is noble about us, it demands our attention, an honest conversation with the man (or woman) in the mirror. We get to see that moment of self-reflection in the prodigal son. Scripture says in a pig pen he was brought to his senses.
But when he came to himself he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in my thy sight; (Luke 15:17-18)
When He came to himself, he came into something else. When we acknowledge our brokenness, our flaws, the issues that are preventing us from receiving the inheritance our Heavenly Father so desperately wants to give us at the appointed time, we have to do more than just be aware of it. We must conjure up more than an apology. When we’re broken we have to have the courage to fix it.
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? (James 2:14)
We can either repeat or repair. If it’s broken we can fix it. We really can! We can go beyond verbal declarations and begin to excavate the very thing (or people) that are blocking our path to that long driveway where the prodigal son stood to face his father. We need only throw up our hands, surrender and asked to be healed from the inside.
We don’t always know a person’s story, the adversity they’ve survived. The broken glass they’ve crawled over and the courage it took to keep on walking. The point is they got up and kept walking toward healing. God is waiting there for us.
I’ve always wondered what happened to the prodigal son after his father threw him that big welcome home party. Does he work equally as hard on healing himself as he does laboring for his father? Does he repeat –sometimes at the expense of others—or does he continue to repair? I sure hope he got his healing from the inside. I sure hope his reflection in the mirror was his genuine self and not a reflection of how he wanted others to see in him.
The prodigal son is a cautionary tale for all of us when our brokenness outweighs what is divinely decent about us. Don’t let brokenness block the paths you’re supposed to cross, the blessings you’re supposed to receive, the man or woman God truly meant for you to be.