What is the major reason people cannot go home and enjoy time with their family during special occasions? One of the major causes is that of unresolved conflicts. They can last a lifetime and they don’t just disappear with the passing of time.
The story of the prodigal son in Luke 15 tells about a son that had some serious problems with his father. If you had read the story (it’s in Luke 15:11-32) you know that he did eventually return home – but not before dealing with some root issues that were keeping him away from his home.
While the son had a conflict with his father, they are not limited to parents. Perhaps it is with a brother or sister or another relative. Sometimes people have issues with institutions – work places, churches, schools. In my line of work church members have conflicts with one another and with the pastor or the staff sometimes.
We shouldn’t be surprised as conflict is inevitable in relationships (Luke 17:1). The young man handled his differences with his father badly and a distance set in between them that made it more difficult for him to return.
There are obstacles (self-inflicted) that this young man had to deal with before he came back home. I know that sometimes the obstacles are not self-inflicted, but came from a father that was an angry bully or from the hurtful words of a mother. The hindrances are still there – no matter who caused them.
Part of solving a problem is identifying it clearly. That passage in Luke 15 concerning the prodigal gives four areas that must be dealt with when there has been a betrayal in your life whether you caused it or were on the receiving end.
The first emotion the young man had to deal with was deep regrets. When he left his family he didn’t ask his father for advice or consider the additional work load it would cause his brother. He showed an utter lack of respect
In that culture he was asking for his part of the inheritance from his father and was basically telling him, “I wish you were dead”. He didn’t honor his father at all, but was full of selfishness and hatred.
The word regret means “to feel sorrow or remorse for an action, to feel disappointment and great loss for what you have done”. Of course, initially he had none of these emotions, but they did come to him later. He realized the hurt he had caused his father and how selfish his actions had been.
Now, he wants to go home and attempt to be reconciled, but something is in the way. Regret. Everything within him wanted to return after he had wasted his life and possessions, but there was that quiet constant voice in his heart. He heard over and over in his mind, “I have so many regrets and have hurt a lot of people back home. I’m genuinely sorry, but I can’t compensate anywhere close for the pain I’ve caused. I can’t repay Dad for all that I have lost.”
I believe the fact he had regrets was a sign that his heart was broken over his sin and rebellion. If there were no regrets then the arrogance and destruction would have only continued. In fact, he never would have gone home. It was the terrible weight of regrets that caused him to go home.
Many years ago I went to a funeral and stopped to speak with a friend on my way to the car. He was not easy to get close to relationally because he was so full of himself. I just planned to say a few words and head on home (the funeral was 100 miles away from my house). After saying just a few words to this friend, I couldn’t leave.
Something had happened to this man. He had gone through a painful divorce (of which I was unaware) and everything about him was different – for the better. He was humble, kind, gracious and meek. Adversity had broken his heart, but had made him a better man.
Now, I do believe he could have had been like this without the divorce, and perhaps his arrogance was the reason his wife had left him. Whatever the case, he had tons of regrets, but what a special, genuine person he had become. Friend, don’t allow the devil to tell you you have too many regrets to come home. All of us do and God can use them for our good (Genesis 50:20).
A second thought that was keeping him away from returning was the realization of how selfish he had been. His attitude was “me first”. He told his father concerning his inheritance, “Give me” (15:12). There was no seeking of advice or consideration on his part. It was all about him and what he wanted.
This young man left home with an ungrateful spirit and with a sense of entitlement with his hand held out. After his life had fallen apart he now contemplates coming home, but he remembers…..the harsh and unthankful words he had said, his attitude of selfishness and greed, and his rebellious attitude toward his Dad.
Part of repentance is thinking about the people you have hurt. You will rarely hear someone confess to the sin of ingratitude, lack of respect, or selfishness today. We use terms like “mistake”, “misunderstanding”, or “spoke too quickly”. Part of coming home is being honest about your attitude and not sugarcoating it at all. Call it what it is and ask forgiveness for selfishness and ingratitude.
It is impossible for young people to comprehend the sacrifices their parents have made for them, until they have children. But we ought to try.
My parents put off their own dreams and plans in order that I might have a quality of life and the things I needed. As I grow older I realize how short-sighted and selfish I was. They bought me cleats, paid for my braces, gave me lunch money, bought me clothes for school, let me use their car with gasoline and insurance on it that they had paid, and thousands of other personal sacrifices they made.
It’s not so much that I expected it or was ungrateful, I just had no idea of how much they sacrificed. I know that Paula and I have tried to do the same for our children. And that’s all right. But after a season or years or rebellion a young person or young adult finally awakens to reality. They realize they had no sense of gratefulness and remember their stinking attitude.
These painful remembrances can keep them from coming home. Rather than staying away from home, just admit it and allow God to change your spirit to one of great thankfulness.
A third hindrance of being able to reconcile is pride. The prodigal son had wasted his resources (15:13) on extravagant living and on harlots (15:30). When famine came into the land, he lost his money, his friends and was alone with no job and no one to help (15:14-16).
Imagine the conversation he had within himself, “My father gave me a good name and I wasted it. He gave me opportunities and money and I have wasted it all. How could I ever face him again?” Pride will talk to us and keep up from humbling ourselves and going home to admit our wrong and seek forgiveness.
Pride makes us stubborn and keeps us from saying those nine words that can change everything, “I was wrong; I am sorry; please forgive me”. The first three words show that you have had a death to pride and are willing to humble yourself.
A final emotion that was making him hesitant to come home was shame. Here was the guy with the nice clothes and a wad of money in his pocket busted broke, filthy and dressed in rags. Even worse, he was working in a a pig pen for a living so hungry that he was eating the food the pigs were eating (15:13-16).
What would his father think if he could see him now? What would his friends and other family back home think? He was ashamed and guilty at where the choices in his life had led him.
Shame is when we feel humiliated and are dishonored. Sin always leads to guilt and guilt always results in shame. Have you ever considered that guilt and shame are God’s gifts to drive you back to Himself? Without them we would continue in a downward spiral until it led to a free fall with no hope of a better future.
Are any of these feelings keeping you from going back to those you love and that you have hurt – or maybe that have hurt you? Regret, selfishness, pride, shame. All of these, and others, will destroy the peace and joy God wants us to have.
Many years ago I had finished my message and we were giving the invitation which is a time of response for those that want to pray and seek counsel. I had my head bowed and was standing behind the pulpit praying as the service was coming to a close. I heard footsteps climbing the steps to the platform and I looked up and there was one of our good men approaching me with tears flowing down his face. He couldn’t say anything. He wrapped his arms around me and buried his face in my shoulder and began to weep.
That night I had spoken on the subject of how we lose our joy. He was a busy man and well thought of in our church, but he had drifted away from the Lord and wanted his joy back. Of course, he didn’t have to come to me, but his heart was so broken that he needed support and encouragement.
I hope that if you need to come home – to Christ, to broken relationships, to those that have hurt you – that you might consider what is keeping you from returning. Ask God to give you courage and do whatever it takes to go home. It will be difficult, but it will be so worthwhile.
Here’s a great song by Steve and Annie Chapman that tells the story in simple lyrics. It’s not long, but it will be a great blessing to you.