One important theological truth we must hold onto is that God is always present. No matter how far we stray from him, we can always find our way back into the welcoming arms of a father who loves each of us. Jesus’ parable about a father with two sons illustrates this truth. The oldest approaches his dad about receiving his inheritance early. Although the father knows that this is not best for his son, he agrees with the request. The prodigal son takes off with his newly found wealth and spends his time on “riotous living.” He wasted his money on so-called friends, food, alcohol, and sex.
When the money ran out so did the friends, food, alcohol, and sex. He found himself unemployable, starving, and alone in a pigpen. In this moment, he comes to himself and realizes that he does not have to remain in the pig pen, because he can go home to his father: “He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger!’” Luke 15:16-17.
Like the prodigal son, we get distracted and discouraged. We begin to place demands on God, and instead of listening to God’s instruction, we begin to take matters into our hands. We learn quickly that we need God. We also recognize what we really need from God are intangible things like security, reassurance, dependability, and availability. Often, we cannot appreciate what God has provided until we end up in the pigpen—a nasty, dirty place of want and hunger. Perhaps our pigpen is a dead-end job, an unhealthy relationship, a place of guilt and shame, and brokenness.
God’s desire is not for us to remain in pigpens. God wants us to come back home and experience his divine favor and blessings over our lives. Through God’s grace calling out in the pigpen, we are able to come to ourselves and be delivered. The prodigal son’s father could have gone looking for his son, but he waited on his eventual return. Most of us would love God to actually take our hand and get us out of the pigpen. This is not how God operates. We must come to ourselves, figure out in the midst of our circumstances that we need God and choose to live under his authority.
When we make the choice, regardless of riotous living, our lack of resources, or that we smell like swine. God, our father, is there welcoming us with open arms to make us clean, dressing us in the finest robes and rings, and celebrating our deliverance from the pig pen.