In the Gospel of the Prodigal Son, we learn about the pain of change. Until it hurts more to remain where we are, we won’t change. Once change hurts less than remaining the same, we won’t return home. The good news is once we turn to return to the Father, He finishes the journey for us. We won’t remain in pain when we return to the Father, but first we must realize that it will hurt less to return to God.
My brothers and sisters, in this morning’s gospel, the Sunday of the prodigal son, we learn a variety of lessons. We can’t cover them all possibly in one opportunity, but today I wanted to speak about what I call the pain of change. In this gospel, we saw the young brother take his inheritance and go live out into a far country, and he lost everything, it says, with prodigal living. Now, we have to remember this, by the way, prodigal is not a good word. We call him the prodigal son, and we think, well, because he returned that… No, prodigal means nasty living. He went off to a far country and wasted everything he had from his father, to the point where he had absolutely nothing. Nothing to eat, no clothes, nowhere to live. The best he could do, it says in the gospel, was to find a job. He made himself a servant. It says he joined himself to a citizen. He made himself a servant of someone there in the town, who gave him a job to go feed the pigs.
And it says in the gospel he would gladly have eaten the pig slop, that’s where he had come to in his life. The pain, both physically of hunger, emotionally realizing, he says, “Even my father’s servants had enough bread left over,” and this great pain was an anguish for him. Many of you know that I’m a fan of Dave Ramsey. And one of the things that Dave Ramsey says about change, he says, “Until the pain of remaining the same is worse than the pain of change, we will always choose what hurts less.” And so in this gospel, this young man, so long as he could tolerate his life, he was willing to stay in his prodigal life. He was willing to feed the pigs. He was willing to live among the lowest members of society with nothing but pig slop to eat.
And then, he realized, “You know, it would hurt less to go humble myself to my father.” Now, think of his heart in that moment. All this time, he’s living away from his father. All of this suffering. Up until that moment, he must have thought that going back to his father was worse. It wasn’t until he realized that returning to his father was going to be less pain for him then he finally agreed, “You know what? I’m going to go become one of my father’s servants. At least I’ll have something to eat.” And so he returns home.
The father, we know in the story, ecstatic the return of his son. He cloths him, he puts the ring on his finger, he puts shoes on his feet. He gives him the best things of everything, even killing the fatted calf, the prize of prizes, and throws a big party. And now, the older brother. Now, the older brother gets to experience some pain. You see, the older brother who never left his father, who didn’t go on living a nasty life, obedient to his father, did everything his father wanted him to do. Now, he was experiencing pain because this brother of his was being restored to glory. And he thought, “Come on dad”. Are you kidding me? I’ve been here the whole time. You didn’t even give me one goat to have a party with my friends.” And he felt self-righteous. He refused to go into the party for his brother, even the father coming out begging him, “Please, come in. Your brother is alive.”
“No, that son of yours wasted everything. And I was the good son, and you don’t even do this for me. Forget about it.”
You see my brothers and sisters, it hurts to change. Until we recognize that staying where we are hurts more, we will never change our lives and our hearts and our minds. And this is why the church gives us this amazing gospel lesson, the second Sunday of the Triodion. Halfway through this preparatory period, and the church says, “Embrace the pain of change.” We as Christians know that as the Stavro, our cross is the pain of change. And my brothers and sisters, we all know this to be true. It’s uncomfortable on the best day to change our attitude or to change our practices, but the longer we remain in those practices, the harder it becomes. We become comfortable in our pain. And then one day we wake up. We wake up to realize, I don’t have to have this pain anymore. I don’t have to live in squalor. I don’t have to live this nasty life anymore. I can return to my father, and then we feel the relief of God’s love.
You see, the father was waiting for him to come back, waiting for that moment that his son realized just how bad life could be. And it says in the gospel that the moment he saw him from a distance, the father ran out to him. My brothers and sisters, when we choose to return our life dedicated to God, when we choose to leave the sinful life behind, in that moment God finishes the race for us. He comes to get us. He doesn’t wait for us to make every step in front of us. That’s why Christ came. He came to do it for us because we can’t do it ourselves. We can’t change without God. We can’t change the way we think, we can’t change the way we live, unless we open our minds and allow God to come into us as the father ran to his son.
So as we prepare for the great fast, what we call Lent, as we prepare, embrace the change. Don’t be afraid of the pain. Maybe it’s the pain of fasting, maybe it’s the pain of changing old habits. Don’t be afraid of the pain because God is going to come and rescue you from that pain and restore you into his kingdom. But he’s waiting for us to make the first move. He’s waiting for us to decide. Staying where we are is more painful than changing and returning and living with Him. Glory to God for all things.
Great story that’s is in the life of many including me. Hoping my children will enlighten their lives spiritually and having the Lord in their lives but their free will indicate other ways.