Tag Archives: Prodigal

When Self-Pity Sets In

It happened way back in the 9th grade but I still remember it vividly. (In that bygone era 9th grace was the end of Jr. High – Sr. High started with 10th grade. Some of you ‘young uns’ need that clarification.) The faculty asked for suggestions for a theme for the 9th grade graduation ceremonies. I dutifully submitted my entry – “The End of the Beginning.” It was from a wartime speech of Winston Churchill – “Now this is not the end; it is not even the beginning of the end; but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” I really liked it. Apparently someone else did as well – it was selected as the theme. I was elated!

Graduation night rolled around and there was a big banner in the gym with the theme in printed bold letters. There was a printed program bulletin with the theme on the cover. Now I was even more elated – until I realized that nowhere was credit given to me for coming up with the theme. “Well,” I consoled myself, “Someone’s probably going to say something during the ceremony.” Guess again – nothing, no how, nowhere. I was crushed. I was hurt. I was angry.

How unfair, how inconsiderate, how rude! Certainly I should have been credited or somehow duly noted. After all, if I hadn’t come through there would be no theme – or at least not one this good. I didn’t want attention – just credit (or so I told myself!) On and on it went in my mind. For some reason I didn’t really enjoy that might very much! The faculty spoiled it for me. At least that’s what I thought then.

As I look back from my wiser adult years I see and learn some things. I see, for example, a comrade in self-pity.

“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ (Lk. 15:25-30). (1)

I realize now that on my graduation night the older brother and I were twins. And, if I’m honest, since that night there have been many other times I’ve ‘twinned up’ with him. The malady is called self-pity. If only the older brother had gone home and joined the party! He might just have had a good night! If only he had listened to his father. The lesson? “When you’re feeling sorry for yourself, go home.”

I now know that going home, joining the party, brings to mind some important truths.

  • First, self-pity simply means I have forgotten the blessings that surround and fill my life every day. The father told his older son, “My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.” When self-pity sets in I need to go back to the place of blessing, back to my Father. “When you’re feeling sorry for yourself, go home.”
  • Second, self-pity means I’ve forgotten that I already have the most important recognition and approval of all – that of my heavenly Father. In reality, His recognition is the only recognition that counts. “When you’re feeling sorry for yourself, go home.”
  • Third, self-pity means I’ve failed to remember that it’s not about me – it’s about God. Any honor in my life should always go to Him. I just need to get back home with my Father to remember this. “When you’re feeling sorry for yourself, go home.”

So from now on I try to see self-pity as a special delivery message from my Father, inviting me home. Hopefully I have enough wisdom to do so. “When you’re feeling sorry for yourself, go home.” (2)


 (1) For a lesson from the younger son in the parable see last week’s blog: When You’ve Had Enough

(2) For more on self-pity read chapter 6 of my book “When the Going Gets Tough”



When You’ve Had Enough

I knew our young son was upset. But I was surprised – and broken-hearted – when I walked past his bedroom and saw him packing his little bag. When I asked him what he was doing he replied that he was leaving home. When I asked where he was going he said he was headed to his best friend’s house. Tired of the regulations and rules he wanted out. He wanted freedom. He wanted to live life his way. To make a short story even shorter, we chatted and fortunately he remained home. All ended well.

The whole incident reminded me of another son and his father. We meet them in a story told by Jesus (Luke 15: 11-24) This young son (quite a bit older than mine) rebelled. He was bored with life; he’d had enough of the laws, the chores, the responsibility of doing for others. He was a “man” now, ready to do it his way. So he cashed out his inheritance; that meant he made a complete break from his family and his home; there was no longer any attachment or legal standing to his family; he had legally and literally severed the family tie.

Whether or not you’ve ever felt that way with your earthly father, have you ever felt like that with God? The reality is most of us have run from God – or wanted to. There have been moments when we wanted to throw off our religious upbringing, or rebel and run away from God to build our own lives, to get out from underneath the rules and regulations of what we perceived as a tyrannical, freedom limiting God. We want no strings attached to our lives. We want to do what we want, when we want, where we want, how we want. We don’t want anybody else calling the shots. We desire the power to make all our choices for ourselves.

Not convinced you match up to this young son? Think about it. Our inheritance is all the resources of life – our intellect, emotion, will, and the gifts and resources of the Spirit of God. They are all ours to use as we desire! God only asks that we remember the source. But what have we done with our gifts? Too often we have stuffed our lives full of what we can touch, taste, save, and sell. We, too, have taken the Father’s capital – our energy and ambition, our highly developed reason, our technological skills, our ability to be inspired by great things and ideas, our abundant giftedness from the Spirit – and have gone to the far country, without the Father; we have failed to take Him into account. So let’s admit it – we all have a little far country to which we’ve run. Whether we rejected our faith, broke or abused our relationships, blew our priorities, or messed up our involvements, anytime we placed our desires first we traveled to our far country.

But notice what happened. The family tie pulled at the young son’s heart. It pulled him towards home. He remembered the real source of his life, and who he really was. His life came from his father. He would always belong to his father. To think he could cut himself off from his father is like thinking we can hold our breath and be independent of oxygen. Sooner or later, we return to the source of life. As Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God.”

So the son headed for home. Remember that he no longer had any claim to the family – he had completely severed the tie. So he was ready to repent and ask to be the lowest of the slaves. Here’s the rest of the story.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.                                                              “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’            “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”

The father, of course, is a picture of our Heavenly Father. Jesus wants us to know that never once are we out of our Father’s mind and heart. Never once do we come home to an empty house or a cold heart. Not only is the welcome mat always out but our heavenly Father throws a party of celebration and reinstates us as His children.

How can we be sure? We see the Father in Jesus. “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” Jesus’ story illuminates the faithfulness of God’s love, a faithfulness and love seen in Jesus dying on a cross.  Because of Jesus we can be certain that we are always welcome at home. God loves us for who we are, not what we do or where we go. And being His children our Father is always ready to run and embrace us, to kiss us, to love us some more. It doesn’t get much better than that!

So the next time you think you’ve had enough, remember: “Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, calling for you and for me…’ Come home, come home, ye who are weary, come home.”