If the story of the Prodigal Son was the story of a Prodigal Daughter
A number of years ago I pondered the thought of what if the story of the prodigal had been about a a prodigal daughter. In other words, if there were a prodigal daughter, what would her story be? What would her struggles, weaknesses, questions, fears, anxiety, and also her failures be? As I thought about it, the story of the Prophet Hosea and his wife came to mind. In the story of the Prodigal Son we often times focus on the son. We never really focus on the Father and don't hear much about the brother. In many cases we compare the prodigal son and the brother. Perhaps because it gives us greater insight to the heart of Father and the incredible mercy the Father gives to his prodigal son and from the reaction of the brother we see just how extravagant the love, grace, and mercy this father extends to the disrespectful, arrogant, selfish, wayward son and meanwhile the faithful son who did everything right thought he deserved more as the son who served, who remained faithful, and was the son that could do no wrong. None of us want to be compared to the brother of the prodigal son because he's often portrayed in a negative light but often times people can related to the prodigal son because that is their story. although, there just might be more people in the church who could just as easily be compared to the brother of the prodigal son. In the church we're great at being brothers and sisters, comparing one another, and saying "at least I don't do this or that, at least that's not my struggle," And then when people in their self righteous mentality and hypocrisy who can't help to say, "God only helps those who help themselves" as if to pour salt on an open wound. There are fewer people who know how to be fathers and mothers in the faith. However, that may be for a topic of another day.
As I thought about my own story. And as I thought about my own experiences with family and those around me including my church community I could relate to some degree with the prodigal son but with just one hitch -- it would be the story of the prodigal daughter. As I thought about how a prodigal son and prodigal daughter would have similar and yet a different story the picture of the Prophet Hosea and his wife seemed to be the most profound picture that more than likely would be her story. In this story she becomes the prostitute who is repeatedly unfaithful to her husband but her husband pours out this most extravagant love for his wife, more love than what most men would be capable of, and loves her despite her inability to love him in return. In fact, he loves her and keeps on loving her until one day she finally understands what love truly is and finds it within herself to love him and probably in a way she had always wanted to. The point to the story of Hosea is to mirror the relationship that God has with Israel and essentially the church and all of humanity. We were and apart from God are incapable of loving Him and remaining faithful to Him and even in the sending His Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross purchasing us to redeem us as His own, as the scripture says, "yet while we were still sinners Christ died" In the story of Hosea, his wife becomes a prostitute and Hosea decides to literally purchase his wife. It's like he said, "here, I'll pay you to be my wife, I'll pay you to stay with me instead of some strange man who's not your husband." It's like he says, "I am your husband. I am the one who will treat you right and not take advantage of you and will take care of you and treasure you. I am the one who will honour you and make it so that you don't have to sell yourself to other men and will show you how I see you and show you the value I place in you." From this story we are introduced to the valley of achor which seems to me to be equivalent in that day and age for a Hebrew boy to literally be living in pig dung. The prodigal son lost his identity and had forgotten who he was. He lost his way, he lost his inheritance, and wasted all he had on things that only brought momentary gratification but nothing that would ever truly last. She would give of herself until she ran dry. She would forget her worth and value. She would let other men use her for their own selfish gain to fullfil the lust of their flesh, she gives and gives and gives of herself and others will just take and take and take while using her as an object until she becomes desolate herself and not only desolate and spiritual barren but an empty shell and lifeless.
Yet the number of the people of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which can be neither measured nor numbered; and in the place where it was said to them, "You are not my people," it shall be said to them, "Children of the living God."
~ Hosea 1:10
Therefore, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. From there I will give her her vineyards, and make the valley of Achor a door of hope. There she shall respond as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. "In that day,' declares the Lord, "you will call me 'my husband'; you will no longer call me 'my master'
~ Hosea 2:14 - 16
Within the region of Jericho is this valley called the Valley of Achor. If you read enough of the bible you will see Jericho mentioned. Like the walls of Jericho. It is said that inside the walls of Jericho aborted babies no doubt sacrificed to whatever god the people of Jericho worshipped. Just before Israel conquered the land of Jericho you have the grand story of the walls of Jericho falling and back then it no doubt spoke to the people of that day that their god they sacrificed their unborn to was of no comparison to the God of Israel as God brought destruction basically to the alter of their god that existed within their walls. The blind man that Jesus healed who sat at the city gates - the city gates that is, of Jericho. The blind man that Jesus healed who shouted out, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" And inside this Jericho was located the Valley of Achor. The Valley of Achor symbolizes trouble. A ravine is caused by an erosion that takes place over a long period of time as a result of running water / river. Having just viewed a few pictures of this valley it looks pretty desolate despite the water that probably had dried up only to make it a desolate place of great trouble.
The Valley of Achor - Door of Hope
I have walked through a very desolate place. I have endured pain and know suffering. I have been through debilitating depression, anxiety, thoughts of suicide. I know the pain of rejection, dejection, self hatred, as well as toxic levels of shame. I've been and continue to be a person marginalized and disenfranchised. I have known and still know poverty. I know loss and grief. I know mourning and I have cried many tears. I know struggle and weakness. I have known confusion and have been emotionally dried up and disconnected from all my emotions. At times I withdrew and became isolated and in part isolating myself, rejecting others, and in my own poor choice would sabotage good relationships and good things. Today I understand what motivated my behaviour in the past and gratefully I am not the same and have experienced healing in my life. I know what it is like to have my tears turned to laughter and my mourning into dancing. I have tasted sorrow and have had crushing experiences, and have at times fallen miserably and because I never go half way with things, when I fall it's a long hard fall. I'm beginning to appreciate process and time. My journey of healing will be a life long journey but in most valleys that's where you see all the life. We race up the mountain to reach the top of the mountain but if you notice there's not much life up there. Literally, the oxygen levels decrease the higher in altitude we go and life needs oxygen. Well, we need oxygen if we want to live. Something I have learned along the way is that there will be mountain tops and there will be valleys and some pretty darn low valleys.
A doorway is meant to be something you walk through. It's not a dwelling place.
A doorway leads into a home or sanctuary or a room where you find your resting place. Therefore, we walk through the valley and in walking through we find hope on the other side. And in finding hope on the other side we find strength for the journey. I think it was about ten years ago now I became a participant of this inner healing ministry. I remember quite a few of the weeks in my small group and in the main session with everyone. I remember encountering God. I remember the times I'd be ministered to by others and sat in the presence of God hearing Him speak to me in profound ways. Sometimes I'd be sharing what God has done for me in that time and I have to say a lot of time it was like God worked covertly in my heart but so covertly and so gentle that I experienced a change of heart. I'm honestly, more often then not lost for words. I went from this inability to receive to being given a new heart that was strengthened enough to be able to hold onto good things and receive from Him and others. I'll never forget this word spoken to me from a leader in my small group. She said to me, "As God healed the barrenness of Sarah (the wife of Abraham) so too will he heal your barrenness," Abraham was promised a son but for most of Sarah's life she was barren and unable to bear Abraham a son. It was late in life when she finally conceived and gave birth to a son. It took active faith and trust year after year to believe this word for Abraham and Sarah would come true. Along the way they made poor choice and had to deal with the consequences. Whenever I am struggling and I get tired and want to give up or try to make things happen in my own timing of things I return to this word spoken to me. I then find hope in the valley knowing the valley I walk through and on the other side I find my resting place. The choices we make as we experience these low valleys and high mountain tops will determine who we will become. Thankfully God is for us and not against us and He has given us the grace we need to endure what we're called into as we journey this life towards holiness and wholeness in Christ.
Holiness does not consist in not making mistakes or never sinning. Holiness grows with capacity for conversion, repentance, willingness to begin again, and above all with the
capacity for reconciliation and forgiveness.
~ Pope Benedict XVI