Let me narrate to you an exciting story of a loving father and a reckless son. Years ago, this son took his share of the family wealth, left home and squandered it. Maybe he felt he didn’t belong at home – he probably just saw himself as a wealthy young man meant to enjoy every pleasure the world out there had to offer. Unfortunately, after the money had run out, he not only ended up in a job where he fed pigs, but also starved enough to begin craving the food meant for pigs. He was now someone who felt completely lost and ashamed of what he had become.
In the pigsty, the son has an epiphany that the servants at his father’s home are way better off than himself. That very thought triggered in him a sorrowful sense of what he had thrown away and what he might become if he ever went back home. Thus, he started the long walk back home, having resolved that he would beg his father to take him back, not as a son, but as a servant.
However, in his father’s eyes, the son had only one identity – not what the son had done or where he ended up. It was all about who he was – a loving father’s precious child—a child who was worth the longing, worth the wait. In fact, the father assigned so much worth to his lost son that he ran out to embrace him even while he was still on the road; and he threw a grand party to celebrate the much-longed-for homecoming.
This story was narrated by Jesus, and is recorded in the Bible, with the intention of communicating an important message. Across our lifetime, we often hold several identities—some that we assume and some that are placed on us. Sometimes, we allow these identities to dictate our behaviour and actions. And some of these identities may even lead us to ruin.
The good news of the Bible is the hope and promise of our ultimate identity being redeemed to what it should have always been – a chosen humankind made in the image of God to reflect His character. Like the son in the story, we may find ourselves lost and staring at impending loss or ruin; filled with sheer regret and guilt at how badly we’ve messed up. However, we always have the opportunity to pull ourselves up and return to the arms of the waiting father, for whom we are still his much-loved child. We can choose to be where we were meant to be, and live out the identity we were designed to have.