From Luke 15 in my own words...
There once was a man that owned his own farm in Manitoba and had worked very hard his whole life to carry on the family business that his father had left him. He had just retired last year and over the years had accumulated quite a lot of money and good investments, not to mention a house worth $2.5 million, 4 cars, butlers and maids, and complimentary trips and cruises whenever he wanted. However, his wife had died recently and the only things that mattered to him now were his two sons, who so closely both resembled his wife and joy of his life. They were now ages 25 and 35 and both so different that it seemed impossible for them to ever get along; they were always fighting and never saw eye to eye on anything. The 25 year old was single and the 35 year old was married with 3 young kids.
Anyhow, one day out of the blue the younger son (Billie Bob) basically had a chat with his dad that didn't end well. He had had enough of the boring prairie farm life and was just dying to go out on his own and see the world; maybe backpack across Europe without a care in the world and party till he dropped? His dad, knowing that his son was the type that wouldn't stay in a small town forever, gave him his blessing. Oh yes, and since half of his estate would eventually go to him when he passed away, he also had lawyers and financial advisors called in to grant his son his half now. No strings attached.
Days later Billie said some quick goodbyes to his dad and older brother (Tommy Tony) and the rest of the family and was gone. He had a blast back backing across Europe, going on cruises and seeing how the rest of the world lived. However, he never got a job and assumed that all that money would last him years and that he had plenty of time to get serious about life. He was still single and known to be a party animal, so that most of his time was spent going to nightclubs, strip bars, having one night stands after the other, and living it up with his new friends in his New York penthouse suite. The nights became longer until he didn't even want to go to bed anymore and when he was alone, he could not bear the thoughts going through his head over and over again. He had nothing in life anymore except what his dad's money bought. His friends were only interested in him as long as they were all drinking and entertaining each other and buying stuff. But when his friends were at work, he became so bored and lonely and depressed that he did cocaine and heroine, drink until he puked, plus gambling so that he could make more money.
Long story short, he lost his friends, became an addict that had to go to rehab because of a court order, lost all his money gambling, discovered he had AIDS, and lost his penthouse suite and all his belongings. His furniture and cars were repossessed to pay his debts and he found himself sleeping in downtown alleys and eating dog food out of a can, because that was all he could afford. Then he had to stay at a Salvation Army shelter for a while because he feared for his life on the streets too, and he was by Central Park unfortunately.
One day when he was out for a walk and had gotten to the bottom of the last dog food can and had nothing left, he came to his senses and thought about his life. He had hit rock bottom and realized what a selfish spoiled brat of a son he was and what a horrible human being he felt like. He had nothing left and no where to go and thought about his family, who he missed so much back home; especially his dad, who had done nothing but love him and want the best for him. He sent a short email to his dad, saying only that he was desperate and wanted to come home and his dad ended up the same day sending him money for his flight back.
He thought non-stop about what he was going to say to his father. Like I am not good enough to be called your son, you must be so embarrassed of me, I have something to tell you about what I have been doing, I may be dying, I wasted all your hard earned money and it's all my fault. He had so badly screwed up his own life that God had given him, others lives', and his families lives as well because he knew that they all missed him and loved him and trusted him so much. He knew he was going to beg and plead and truly work hard to prove to his dad that he had changed and that he only wanted a roof over his head; even if he had to be hired as a farm worker and sleep in the back garden shed with all the tools and the dirty animals. He was so worried, scared, nervous and felt so lonely as he had never felt before.
He landed in Winnipeg and got off the plane, wondering how he was going to get a ride to the country as he had only a bit of money left over from the flight and still had a few hours drive too. Just as he turned around to check for his luggage on the carousel, he saw him. It was his dad! He had wanted to surprise his son and drove 3 hours just to get to the airport to see him. They just stood there crying and hugging for a half hour and his dad was just so happy to see him alive and back home where he would be taken care of and treated good. His dad's heart had ached and hurt so much while he was gone that whole year, and he had just sat by his huge front window day after day staring out onto the long stretch of road in front of the house.
Billy Bob tried to explain and apologize and do the speech that he had rehearsed in his head but his dad would have no part of it. He didn't want to know anything that he had done because it was all in the past and he had already forgiven him a while after he had left home. As they pulled up into the driveway, his son could see that there were dozens and dozens of cars and vehicles everywhere; on the lawn, on the road, up and down the street and stretching out as far as the eye could see. His dad had arranged a huge party and had called up all the relatives they knew to come. It was very last minute, so the only thing that his older brother Tony knew was that they were just having a small family dinner with Billie.
Billie had just finished a 12 hour day as some of the farm workers had called in sick and there was no one to replace them. He was always the good son, the responsible one, the family man, the hard worker that never had a sick day in his life. Compared to his younger brother, he was a saint, but he could never understand why his father treated them both the same. He figured that he was so much better than his brother and was actually very proud of that fact and how his life had turned out. As Billie wiped the dirt off his boots and his clothes and stepped into the house, he just about had a heart attack at what he saw. This was the biggest party he had ever seen in the history of his family and he was wondering at the same time what was going on with all the singing and crying and hugging and laughing. And there he was. Billie in his dad's favorite chair, looking so clean shaven and happy and he even had a new suit on, courtesy of his dad of course.
Tony was angered and so upset that he couldn't even speak and his heart was pounding in his chest. He felt like screaming at everyone, especially his brother. How hard he had worked for his dad for the last 35 years, did everything perfect, worked hard to support his wife and kids, and had never asked his dad for anything extra in return. The sight of his brother being so pampered, especially after what he did and how he broke his dad's heart, angered him so much that it made him sick to his stomach with jeolousy. He just sat outside on the back porch step and was contemplating what to do next when his dad came out to talk to him. After so many years of being silent, he told his dad everything he felt and poured out his heart to him.
His dad was able to calm him and comfort him and tell him how much that he loved him. He always loved the both of them equally, not just because they reminded him of his dear wife, but just because of the fact that they were his own flesh and blood. They never had to earn his love or respect or trust as his dad always made it clear that it was freely given. The dad loved them all through good times and bad, no matter what. He told his son how proud he was of him and they worked out a lot of junk in the trunk from the last 35 years, but mostly he stressed this: That we should all be so happy and celebrate because my son and your brother was dead to us and thought to be lost forever and now he is alive again and found.
Well, I always liked this story of Jesus and how we could see ourselves as either son in many similar ways. I always loved how Jesus wanted us to see God the father as the father in this story. Not evil and watching and waiting for us to mess up so he could give us real bad punishment. Just loving and just forgiving and not because we can be good enough to earn it (because we can't) but because that is who he is. Always there for you and me and never too far away from us. He only wants our good, when everything around us wants us to mess up and ruin our lives. Just like my dad that always wanted me to just be happy and have a good life. How much more so does God want that for us his children.
I guess I have to remember that. How God feels about me no matter what goes on in my life.