The Prodigy…I Mean Prodigal

Jesus said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” The point being that someone was going to have to go fish for them because many of us don’t stay where we should for long, and then someone has to come and fish our sorry selves out of the water over and over again.

Things I’ve learned from being fished…
1. Some lessons are extraordinarily hard to learn.
2. Wisdom is the most expensive thing you’ll ever possess.
3. None of us deserves a second chance…at anything.
4. And none of us would be where we are without second chances…and third chances…and fourth chances…

Which is why I am having such a hard time with something that perhaps seems really, really trivial.
It started earlier this week with this post that Melissa did about a young man attending their camp. I’m putting the link here- you HAVE to read it. YOU JUST HAVE TO. It has convicted me; changed my heart and my attitude. Just. Like. That. And I’ve never had that happen. I’m too stubborn for my own good, and when I get mad I like to bathe in it FOR A LOOOONG TIME.

I’ve been there. More people have run lines to provide me a way out than I can begin to tell you about.
Then, today I was planning for my Creative Writing class and teaching point of view, and I thought of the story of the Prodigal Son, and how the story isn’t really about the son even though the title makes it sound like it’s totally about the son.

Really it’s about the dad, and the brothers who have done everything right, and how they choose to react to a son/brother who ran away from his life, his responsibility, took his inheritance squandered it on frivolity and sin, and then had the audacity to think that he could come home when things didn’t go his way.

And the miracle was, that he could. And not only was he allowed back home, but they threw him a party. His indiscretions forgiven. His position in the family immediately reinstated, no questions, no punishment, no drama. Just a welcome home party.

The trivial thing I’m upset about?

A boy, a 17 year old boy we’ll call Joe, quit football three weeks ago. He’s good. He’s real good. And I was mad. Mad because I knew he quit partly out of fear because this season is going to separate the men from the boys, and I really thought he’d be one of the men. Mad because he left teammates and coaches in a tough spot. Mad because his attitude was bringing the worldliness of the world way too close for comfort. Mad because God gave him a gift and he was throwing it away.

This child has more athletic ability in his front two teeth than most people ever have the pleasure of knowing. He is magic to watch on the football field…or he was.

Joe’s family took a direct hit because of the economy because both the parents work at the executive level in the car industry. The manufacturing plant they worked for closed down this spring. His mom has already moved hundreds of miles away from the family to work while their father stays here so that Joe could finish his senior year. It’s a tough situation for a really great family.

I really don’t know all the details, but I know he needs football, and he needs Godly examples. He needs to shine in an area that is only his. He needs people to push him to develop his gift. So I started begging on Wednesday that he would go back to football.

Apparently he believed he wouldn’t be wanted back- the team wouldn’t welcome him back to the “family” he’s been a part of for five years.

But he made a call this afternoon asking to come back to the team…

and it looks like he may have been right.

He might not be welcomed back.

There are two sides to the argument. It doesn’t set a good example for the rest of the team- some would say it encourages quitting. There are consequences to his decisions; he made a choice now he has to live with it. There are rules and policies. I get that.

Sort of.

But this kid has been on my mind for three weeks- and he’s been in my heart too. It’s been a haunting really.

If we learn nothing else from our walk on earth and our constant striving to be more like Christ shouldn’t we have learned that grace and mercy aren’t grace and mercy if extending them is easy or logical?

And just like the brother that watched his father rejoice at the return of the prodigal one, sometimes grace and mercy for one is a bitter pill for another.

But I ask you- have we forgotten who was on the cross and why He was there?

Peter, the apostle that Christ Himself renamed to reflect that he was a chip off The Rock, denied Jesus 3 times…in a row.

If anyone deserved to be banished from a team, it was Peter.

And Jesus just kept fishing him out of the water and bringing him back. Over and over and over.
If we haven’t learned anything else, we were supposed to learn this. Our job isn’t to hang with the 100 sheep that are staying in the pen. Our job is to go get the one that is lost and running with wild abandon in the field.

So I’m struggling with what will happen to Joe. You may say, give it up already, it’s a silly game- it won’t matter 50 years from now.

I disagree…this time. This one is going to matter, and not just to Joe. There are several boys that could learn a lot from having to pay part of Joe’s debt so that he can return to the team. A “Lines” lesson could be exactly what they need.

It seems to me that if we live as we are commanded to live, loving everyone and extending grace just as it has been extended to us, the decision is a no brainer. The kid needs the team, he needs the men that coach the team, he needs football.

He’s 17; he knows not what he does.

And I know this; I learned it from Coach- sometimes a game isn’t JUST a game. Sometimes the game has eternity written all over it.

The decision that is made regarding this boy’s future athletic career will impact him forever- it will determine his collegiate future, but it will also impact his world view and how he relates and reacts to people in his life.

And while Joe took his inheritance and ran off and “spent it frivolously” while his teammates were sweating and sacrificing for the greater good of the team, my hope is that this is a situation that those in charge can use to teach a lesson about the gospel and grace and mercy and restoration, and ultimately about LOVE.

Pray on this one.
See y’all

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4 Comments on The Prodigy…I Mean Prodigal

  1. elizabeth
    August 16, 2009 at 2:00 am (8 years ago)

    I know that you are a wonderful writer, but this is the best post you have ever had. Truly-I am touched and moved to tears.

    I love you and your heart!

  2. leslie ruth
    August 16, 2009 at 3:46 pm (8 years ago)

    What a powerful story! And how well you tell it. Praying that on September 4th, I get to see this young man on the field. And if not, I’ll pray with confidence that God will continue to write out his story with grace and love…

  3. Melissa
    August 16, 2009 at 10:17 pm (8 years ago)

    Oh, man. This was awesome. You’re heart is so sweet and honest. I just want to sit across your kitchen table from you.

  4. Anonymous
    September 1, 2009 at 10:42 pm (8 years ago)

    This is a really great post, truly seems to be from the heart. I bet this “Joe” kid appreciates it and the prayers…except I doubt he quit because of the upcoming fear, but more from pressure from his parents for the future. “Joe” was always one of the Men…


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