About two weeks before my birthday I already got one of the best birthday gifts I have ever received in my life. No, I didn’t get a new house, a new car, new jewelry, a new laptop (although my husband was asking if I wanted one), a new perfume or even a new Urban Decay eyeshadow palette. What I got was something so priceless, you can’t put a price tag on it and I got it through my pastor’s Sunday sermon.

It was just a typical Sunday morning and I didn’t get enough sleep the night before because of neuropathy pain in my right arm. It also made me take a longer than usual time to get ready for church and the worship has already started when we walked in. Pastor Alan came up to deliver the Word and while he was doing his introduction, I could already guess what the Scripture text would be, Luke 15:11-32.

Immediately my brain reacted, “Oh, great, another sermon on the Prodigal Son and this is the nth time I’ve heard this,” and it automatically shifted to think about other things while pretending to listen (Sorry, Pastor Alan!).

So he went on telling the story and I was still pretending when all of a sudden, I felt the Lord’s gentle nudge telling me, “Listen carefully, there is something here I want to tell you that you’ve never heard before. Don’t miss it!” “Ok, Lord, I’m listening,” I responded in my mind. He was still going on saying things I’m sure I’ve already heard before and then, wham!

You see, every time I hear a sermon on the Prodigal Son(s) I have never seen myself as the son who went away, I always thought of myself as the other son, the one who stayed, the obedient, responsible one who later on griped about it. For the first time, I saw myself as the son who left.

Pastor Alan was saying something like, “What this son in essence was actually saying to his father when he asked for his share of the inheritance was, ‘I want your money, your material possessions, your blessing, BUT I DON’T REALLY WANT YOU…’”

That was a blow to my heart and at first, I was too blinded and proud to admit it. I still pray, I still read my Bible, I still go to church every Sunday and even play the keyboards once in a while, so how can this be? Then the Lord said, You are just going through the motions but your heart is far from Me. Do you really want Me or do you just want everything I can give you? Remember how it was when you truly wanted Me.” And I began to remember.

I remembered the times when the only thing that mattered to me was seeking God’s presence, like what the psalmist said, “As the deer longs for water, so my soul longs for you.” I remembered times during personal worship what it was like to join all of creation, praising and glorifying His name. I remembered when His written Word seemed to come alive and everything would look like I was reading it for the very first time. I remembered when my tired, worn-out body would be healed by a quickening of my spirit through His. I remembered the utter, childish delight I felt when He sang and danced over me, like a love-struck Father, assuring me that He loved me as His daughter first, before His servant. I remembered the safe place in His arms where I used to go to find refuge and comfort when my inner and outer world was in turmoil. I remembered how my soul found rest in Him alone, so that I could truly say, “It is well… All is well with my soul.”

I knew what God was telling me that morning, “You have left Me,” He said, and I humbly admitted it, “Yes, Lord, I do have Your blessing… but I have left You.”

Like the Prodigal Son, I left the church that morning with the resolve to go home, back to my secret place. It’s been two weeks now and the struggle to not be sidetracked with the urgent and to prioritize the important is very real. My Father, forever faithful, gracious and forgiving has welcomed me with open arms and I am tucked securely in His loving arms. I am home.

- Joam F.