While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.
~ Luke 15:20
1 spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant: prodigal habits die hard.
2 having or giving something on a lavish scale: the dessert was crunchy with brown sugar and prodigal with whipped cream.
This popular Gospel story is often read as a story about the son – how he squandered his inheritance in dissolute living. But a closer reading it is as much the story of a prodigal father who was wasteful, extravagant, spendthrift, profligate in showing his love for his son. It is the story of God’s love for us.
I see God’s prodigal love often in nature. See the flowers of the fields. They do not spin nor work. And yet, when spring comes, they bloom in wild profusion. Imagine the life and beauty there is in a pride of lions, a colony of rabbits, a pack of wolves, a herd of giraffes, an exaltation of larks, a bevy of deers, a streak of tigers or a shiver of sharks. Just look up into the heavens. Imagine the billions of stars out there. Did God really have to create so many stars and meteors and planets and galaxies and black holes? Even now, star factories across the universe are churning our new stars by the billions everyday. Imagine all this prodigious and prodigal outpouring of creative love.
The ways of men are like those of the prodigal son. We squandered our share of the inheritance in a life of dissipation. Only to realize we are not in control. A famine breaks out. Disaster strikes. Disease catches up with us. We fall on hard times. We are glad just to be alive and we long for our father’s home.
The ways of God are like the nature we see around us: abundant, life-giving, prolific, boundless, limitless, and yes, prodigal. Our God is the God of second chances. He does not tire of waiting for us to come back home. And when we do muster the courage to come home, there are no words of recrimination nor of judgement, only a loving kiss and a tight embrace.
I only need to come to my senses, get up and go to my father and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.”