What is the real answer for people who are trapped in their predicament? It might be that they are simply stuck in the rut and have lost motivation. Or it might be far more severe - as in addictions, abuse, or the scars of a disappointing past.
Let me tell you the story of a certain man who had two boys. You probably already know this story, but don't hang up! You are about to hear it in a way that you have never heard it before. Even if you don't know the story, you will most likely know people who fit the description.
And no, it is not the little 6-month-old in my arms in the picture above. That's Jack, my grandson. He's actually going to help me answer the question that needs to be asked by the boys in this story and also the characters in your story, possibly even the character reading this blog. :)
Living in a pigsty is not exactly a pleasant experience.
We are not just talking here about the bedroom of a typical teen whose floor is nowhere to be found, and an aroma so strong that not even the family dog will enter. No, we are talking about the genuine article.
When I was a child, my grandfather, PaPa, lived on a farm with many fields and pens surrounded by electric wires, fencing in all kinds of animals. The pigsty was the most fascinating. Why would God create an animal that wallered (that's farm language for "wallowed") in his own "you know what" and eat corn cobs. I didn't get it. And tell me why we southerners were eating every part of that animal... literally. You could go into the local corner grocery and find random parts in jars of vinegar, including the head and the feet. OK, so it was cheap. I still didn't get it.
One day, as I walked through PaPa's kitchen, he sat there with a fork eating out of a jar of something that looked very tasty, if you believed his facial expressions. When I inquired, he offered me some. He called it "chitlins". He said it tasted just like chicken. "Chitlins", "chicken", what's the difference? Well, I am alive today, having survived the jolly fun of a grandfather - who also once talked me into inhaling his cigar - to tell you that pig intestines and fried chicken are not served on the same menu for a reason.
But the young son in the story, who wasted his premature inheritance on a long endless party, was not only working in the "waller," he was so destitute he could not even afford the "chitlins." So he requested to eat the same swine slop he was daily pouring into their feeding troughs. To make things worse, he was denied the slop. It doesn't get any lower than that. It was like being compared to the worth of the least desirable animal on the planet and coming up with the short end of the stick.
What happens next, we pray, happens to anyone living in any kind of pigsty, mental, physical or spiritual, large or small.
"He came to himself!"
Of course, this is the story of the prodigal son. You know the rest of the story. He goes back to his father and says he is sorry and offers to become a servant of the household. And then there is the older son who had some pigsty issues of his own, albeit in his heart.
Both boys had the same need.
A few days ago two of our grandchildren came to our house while their parents, Chris and Liz, had a much-deserved date night. Jack was tired and fussy, so I tapped into the reservoirs of my experience of raising five children, picked him up and began walking him around the house, singing, talking, and patting his back; whatever he needed to go to sleep.
He finally passed out in my arms. Of course, I couldn't lay him down. He would wake up. So I did what any good grandfather would do and laid him on my chest as I sat in a chair watching the movie, "Cinderella," with his older sister, Amelia. If I moved, he moved. If I talked, he would pop his head up, make sure he was in a safe place and then lay it back down on my chest, close his eyes and go back to sleep.
So I lay still, not wanting to lay him down but selfishly wanting to savor the moment for as long as I could. So I cuddled him there... for a solid two hours... letting him sleep to the steady sound of my heart beat.
Then it hit me... "Will he ever know?"
Will this little boy ever really know just how much he is loved? He's too young now to later remember. And later he will be too driven and busy to see it. Oh, I'm not saying that he will not know that he is loved. I'm questioning whether he, like you and me, will be able to comprehend the full depth of love that has been unleashed like an avalanche from heaven from the greatest Father of all.
And while the Bible is clear that His love is the greatest force of power to exist, the truth of it tends to stay in my head and not always make it to my heart.
This is the real question that has to be asked and it’s the answer to the trappings of our own pigsties. It all begins with a deeper yielding to the One who loves us like no other.
When we know that we are loved, we are secure and confident. We become fearless and valiant. The opposite is also true. When we question whether we are loved, we become insecure and needy in our souls, often seeking how to meet the depth of our need. This leads us straight to dirty, smelly pigsties.
To be loved is to have no need.
To have no love is to have nothing but need.
I know you will think me simplistic. Surely the answer to life is far more complicated. And in some ways it is, but only in the context of whether or not love, the fullest measure of it, has been discovered or not.
The climax of the story is that the Father unashamedly and without reservation or hesitation ran to greet the son who was reeking with the odor of a filthy pigsty on a breezy day. He embraced him, mentioned nothing of his failure, killed the fatted calf, and dressed him like a king. Love without limits or barriers was celebrated to the fullest. He lavished His love on his son simply because he was His son.
I'm sure the young son could not believe what was happening and was probably heaving with tears of wonder and relief. But I know this one thing. He was filled to the fullest. He was free from his pigsty.... because he knew he was loved!
Wherever you may be in the stench of your pigsty of a predicament, I pray you will come to yourself, run to the Father who is running toward you, and throw yourself into the unrelenting arms of the only one who gives you what you need the most.
"For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16