We’ve all heard the story of the Prodigal Son: rebellious boy runs away from home, squanders his money, then comes crawling back to his father’s loving arms. The illustration of God’s unfailing forgiveness is blatant, and we learn from this story when we view ourselves as the runaway son and the dad as our Heavenly Father. But what about the shadow in the background — the third protagonist in the story?
When the Prodigal Son comes back begging for forgiveness, we meet a new character and get a glimpse of another personality type: the jealous older brother. This brother sins in a different way than his sibling by resentfully griping to his dad. “Look how many years I’ve stayed here serving you, never giving you one moment of grief, but have you ever thrown a party for me and my friends?” he asks (Luke 15:29-30). The Bible says the father had gone “out and tried to talk to him, but he wouldn’t listen.” Just as the Father extends grace to his younger, rebellious son, he extends the same grace to his older, ungrateful son by seeking him out.
This story is not just for the broken, but for the ‘unbroken’ too. They’re both sinners.
God loves and gives grace to all of us — younger and older sons alike. When we hear stories of God restoring people with unbelievably tragic lives, we think, “How wonderful!” But then we pause and wonder, “What must I do to be so broken that I can experience God like that too?” It seems illogical for people with relatively happy lives to wish for unhappiness just so they can have a ‘God moment’. It often happens, but it can’t be right. Yes, you must humbly view yourself as sinful before the Lord to receive His grace, but you shouldn’t have to desire tragedy. Yes, God faithfully heals the broken, but you don’t have to feel broken to receive His healing.
It seems illogical for people with relatively happy lives to wish for unhappiness just so they can have a ‘God moment’
People are kind of like windowpanes in that way. Some of us might feel smudged and foggy and a little (or very) cracked, worthless and dirty. Others might feel whole, shiny, and intact — good to go. But God loves both kinds. The ‘perfect’ window shouldn’t wish to be like the ‘imperfect’ one just so he can have a close encounter with God. And the ‘imperfect’ window shouldn’t wish to be like the ‘perfect’ one, because the ‘perfect’ one isn’t any closer to God to begin with. You don’t have to be broken to be fixed, but if you think you’re fixed, you really are broken.
Here’s the catch. Dwelling on what kind of windowpane we are is focusing on the wrong matter entirely. Windows — whether smudged or clean — aren’t what God destined us to be at all. He’s making all of us into beautiful homes to house His Spirit. The shiny window isn’t any bit closer to being a house than the cracked one. In the same way, cracked windows don’t necessarily make better homes in the end. Whether we feel broken or whole, God still has a lot of moulding to do in us.
We’ve got a long way to go if we want to go from windowpanes to mansions. So, forget trying to figure out if you’re clean or dirty, broken or put-together, foggy or clear. Instead, focus on inviting God to build around what you already are — build walls of righteousness, faith, hope, and especially love. He can see straight through you, regardless of what kind of window you are. Don’t waste your time comparing yourself to others, but rejoice that He wants to change us all and do so to be more like Him.
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