I’ve known the story of the prodigal son as long as I can remember. Last week my knowing moved from surface to deep understanding. 

I knew people like the self-indulgent prodigal son. I also knew people like the smug, self-righteous older brother. If I were asked for an impromptu Bible lesson, I could have easily taught the Luke 15 account.

I hadn’t given the story a second thought for a long while, but something happened last Monday when I was encouraged to stop and meditate. This was not empty-the-mind Eastern meditation. It was fix-mind-on-God’s-Truth meditation. Instead of thinking of a specific verse, my counselor encouraged me at the end of our session to meditated on just one word. The Word that took center stage in my mind was Accepted. I thought how God said through Paul in Ephesians that I was was accepted in Christ. 

As I worked to fully comprehend what it meant to me that God accepted me, I saw something in my imagination that I had never seen before. I saw the prodigal son—only, this time the face was my face. I felt the strong arms of my Father wrapped around me. I felt the weight of His coat. I felt His ring on my finger. I knew He was calling for shoes and a party—for me! I don’t think it ever had occurred to me that God thinks I am worth celebrating. 

For a while I just cried as I felt the embrace of God. The reality of how good He is and how deeply He loves me settled on me in a flood of tears. I wrote this to capture all I was feeling— “I am accepted by God as His own Esther. Valued. Celebrated. Wanted. Cherished. He is giving me all the time He has, all the resources He has, all the love He has. He is not fed up or frustrated with me. He’s not waiting for me to shape up. He values me because He loves me.”

As I look at the prodigal-son story now I realize how completely I am both brothers. They wanted what something from their Father. I’ve done the same all too often—wanting what God could provide instead of wanting God Himself. 

I like how Skye Jethani, in his book With, describes the younger brother as living life FROM the father and the older brother as living life FOR the father. Both missed the point of actually living WITH the father. Like Skye, I’ve seen people move from living FROM God to living FOR God without ever actually connecting WITH God. The point of Jesus coming, dying, and rising again was to connect us WITH God. That is where life—even when hard—is worth living. 

It’s easy to remain a surface learner in any area—but the consequences can be lethal when we remain surface learners of God. While a surface learner can often recite facts, he or she struggles to understand the context of those facts and therefore fails to apply the lesson. Deep learners certainly know facts, but they go beyond surface knowing to see how the facts are interrelated. A deep learner can take facts from one context and apply those facts in a different context. 

I’m grateful that the Spirit worked last week to take me from surface to deep learning. God graciously made sure I deeply understood His acceptance of me so I can show up for the life-long party He wants us to share. His acceptance is changing how I see everything. 

What about you? Do you know how deeply God delights in you today? Are you living with Him now? How has He helped you understand how much He values you? 

“Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.”

(from Ephesian 5 The Message)

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