“And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners and eateth with them.” | Luke 15:2, KJV
I’m grateful that Jesus received and still receives me. I am grateful that Jesus encourages me to eat when I don’t feel like eating. In the past, when I read or listened to the story of the prodigal son, my impression was that it relayed the story of the unbeliever who had no idea that he/she is actually a member of God’s family. Since my excursion outside the bounds of the familial household, I have come to realize that “The Prodigal Son” story relates to believers who lose sight of their identity and inheritance while in the Father’s house.
I received Christ as my Lord and Savior toward the end of my senior year of high school. My heart’s desire changed from a self-centered point of view to a Christ-centered one: I really just loved people and I wanted the Lord to be pleased with my life. In my search to know Christ better, I began reading the Bible and likewise began to understand some things. As I read, I became increasingly aware of my shortcomings and prayed for transformation in those areas. Though uncomfortable, this tension was fruitful because my heart was set on loving Christ. However, the more I began to serve in Christian leadership, the more my shortcomings overwhelmed me. As a leader, I began to unknowingly mix my love for God with a self-serving attitude, including, but not limited to, performing “good” deeds begrudgingly (as a leader I felt I couldn’t say ‘no,’ so I performed good deeds because I thought it was expected of me, but love was the missing ingredient in my actions). Also lying beneath a considerable portion of my actions was a desire to be recognized by my peers. That, combined with habits that were more difficult for me to renew my mind from, left me feeling defeated and used while living as a Christian. I didn’t understand why my Christian life seemed so colored with defeat when I was supposed to have victory.
“How can you be a Christian and do this? How can you be a Christian and say that?” These would be the thoughts that unraveled in my mind about myself. I was also convinced that other people thought similarly of me when I confessed my shortcomings to them. Eventually, I stopped confessing. When people asked how my walk (with the Lord) was going, I simply adopted generic Christian responses to avoid getting too deep with people I didn’t trust. Likewise, confounding thoughts would consume me about my brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. How they could treat me a certain way and why they seemed to get away with things I felt I would be smited by God for, or shunned by man for, left me grappling with the thought, “is God good?” I didn’t think so. I was afraid of Him and my love was souring. I felt embittered toward God and man.
I couldn’t see. I couldn’t see Jesus or Father God rightly because of my deep-seated bitterness and fear—and that terrified me. As hard as I fought my feelings, the thoughts remained. I could not make myself see clearly. Before I became conscious of what was brewing in my heart, I heard the Lord tell me in worship to resign from all leadership positions in my Christian fellowships. I did not understand. The thought of me resigning from those positions made no sense to me. I thought that because I had intentional worship time and read my Bible twice a day, that my relationship with God was in good shape—that I was fine. However, I couldn’t shake that it was the Holy Spirit speaking to me. I left all but one fellowship because the fear of missing out (FOMO) was so strong in me. My FOMO almost kept me holding on to the things and people I needed to let go of in order to see and hear my Heavenly Father clearly.
It was now my senior year of college and I was no longer tethered to my leadership positions. I refused accountability because I felt abused by the people I had served with and wanted nothing to do with them or Christians in general. I downright ignored people’s text messages and phone calls. I did not want to be bothered living in a community of people who were constantly rubbing me the wrong way. “I was the victim and now I am free!” At least, that’s what I thought.
“And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.” | Luke 15:14, KJV
Really, I was in bondage. I couldn’t see my captivity because it was hidden from me in the guise of my victim mentality. During my final fall semester, I dabbled in my newfound “freedom.” I chose selfishness outright because it was time for me to focus on me and what I like to do. I was involved socially and finally doing better academically. My theme song for the year probably would have been “Can’t Tell Me Nothin,’” word to Kanye. Outwardly, I seemed to have moved on, but inwardly I was as stuck as I was before. My heart was aching, and life seemed so lackluster. Life, and living according to my own desires, did not taste as sweet and as fresh as I had imagined, but instead tasted bitter and stale. I knew God was the missing link, but I couldn’t figure out how to make the next move. I was stuck.
With the beginning of the spring semester, I was only beginning to see how deep the pit of despair had become. It was now apparent to me that I was on my last leg. I began making appearances at parties and drinking to forget my worries. Holy Spirit would gently say, “you don’t belong here,” and in response I would drink a little more to drown out His words. Every morning was a struggle to get out of bed, and every night was a struggle to fall asleep. Attacked with thoughts of deep sadness and anxiety, I just felt defeated, but had to keep on a straight face because—crazily enough—people were still coming to me for prayer and encouragement. I didn’t understand it and wanted to deter people from doing that because I was ashamed of how far I had visibly fallen. I think through those times God was affirming me, saying that I was still His child, despite me feeling orphaned.
“And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee. And am no longer worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.” Luke 15: 17-19, KJV
It was time to graduate and get to work. After graduation I began working in New York City. In this new environment, I purposed in my heart not to forsake fellowship with my brothers and sisters. Attending church and small group regularly encouraged my own repentance and desire to be honest with the Lord. I was surrounded by people who loved me back into the arms of Jesus. In retrospect, the Father loved me back into the family. By December, I was floored by the miracle Christ had done within me. A year ago, I was angry with God and His people. I did not want to be around either. A year later, my heart sees God as who he says He is, “a good Father,” and my fellow believers as my brothers and sisters. Though my family is not perfect, it’s truly okay because: (a.) neither am I; and (b.) the places where they are both strong and weak will encourage my perfecting to be more like Jesus, which is the goal. It’s miraculous, but only God could have transformed my perspective the way He has. I firmly believe that for me, it had to happen this way. If not, I probably would have been too prideful to see that God is truly who He says He is, and that He alone gives the increase.
Truly, everyone’s relationship and process with God occurs differently. There is no use comparing or criticizing. I implore those who read this to pray for people you don’t understand, especially if they profess to be saved. Pray for them sincerely because they could very well be in grave need of compassion. For those in a dark place like I was, or enjoying worldly delights that leave you feeling exhausted and anxious, I pray that you will see Abba rightly. His love for you makes Him sensitive to your faint desire for Him, even when you are far from Him. Compassion motivates Him to run towards you, to embrace you with His tender-loving kindness and mercy, even if you strongly believe you don’t deserve it (Luke 15:20-24). It’s okay, His love is actually for the undeserving.
Forgive me, I forgot to introduce myself: Hi, my name is Katrina, and I am the prodigal son…or rather, the prodigal daughter.