Monday’s Breaking Bread
Welcome to Monday’s Breaking Bread.
If you’re new here come read about:
Today, Hulda, who will be writing a post once a month for us, is sharing a piece of her own amazing Prodigal story.
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
1 John 3:1 (NIV)
I’m so excited to be joining the community here at Beloved Prodigal. It’s my hope and prayer that this will be a place where we grow and encourage one another to live life out of a place of being loved by our Heavenly Father.
And to begin, I’d like to share my own prodigal story. It’s an ongoing story and some days I find myself wandering away yet again, but I’m learning that we can never run far from God. His love always helps us to find our way home.
The lost and hurting years
I remember running across the dark field as fast as my feet would carry me, trying to hide between the growing crops. The watchmen had not seen me come onto the campus. I would have made it to my dorm room had it not been for the guard dogs barking.
I was 15 at a boarding school located in the outskirts of Lima, Peru. My parents sent me there shortly after my Dad found me smoking in my room with the boom box blasting loud metal music and my hair dyed bright orange-red. It was the last straw after a series of incidents that included skipping school, failing my classes and being caught in the corridors of the high school where 2,000 plus students and I attended.
They had thought that sending me back to their homeland to a Christian boarding school far away from the influence of my “wild” American friends would change things for me. Instead, I found “wild” Peruvian friends whose idea of fun was running away from the boarding school and going into town. My friend that evening had led me to what looked like storage sheds in an alley where there weren’t many people. Some older guys were waiting for us to join them for an evening of fun. I could sense that it was not the kind of fun I wanted and so I ran and tried to make it back into the school without getting caught.
After a few attempts like that, the school finally called my parents to tell them that I was no longer welcome at the school. My parents must have been bewildered. Only a year earlier, I had announced that I was taking baptismal classes and that I was making a public declaration of my faith in Jesus. I believed with all my heart as a child.
Looking back, I can see how my stand for Jesus must have made the enemy of our souls mad. Because my faith was attacked at the most tender part of my life. My home life was broken and hurting. My parents worked two jobs to provide for us and most days the four of us children were left to ourselves until 11 at night. My brother used that freedom to meet up with friends who introduced him to drinking and other “cool” things. In their absence, he could do almost anything he wanted including drugs. By the time my parents discovered what was going on, it seemed too late. There was fighting and yelling and the tension seem unbearable at times. My parents expressed their anger not only at him but also to the rest of us.
A hardened heart
My heart ached for a loving, peaceful home but God seemed distant and silent. And soon, I could hear the hiss of the serpent. Maybe God doesn’t exist; and even if He does, maybe He doesn’t care about our family, about me.
And so I hardened my heart and joined my brother in his rebellion. It began with sipping one can of beer, then I tried the cigarettes. That was the day my Dad caught me just as I had lit up and was attempting to inhale without coughing.
Knowing what I know now, I would not have sent the 15-year-old me to Peru. I was an angry, confused teen. I hated myself, my parents and the whole world. But our Loving Heavenly Father is merciful. Even then His hand of protection was on me.
When I knew the boarding school had expelled me, I thought of running away to the Amazon Jungle with an older boy who I thought loved me. My second oldest brother who’d done no wrong had been sent with me to “watch” over me. I remember telling him of my plans and he slapped me hard across the face. It’s the only time I remember him doing that. But it was his way of saying, “You’re doing no such thing!” I came to my senses and we both came back.
I came back to the U.S. feeling humiliated. I had wasted an entire school year. My life was off track. I felt like a wrecked train and I had no idea on how to get back to normal – I desperately wanted to be normal like the other kids I’d grown up with at the Christian school. But they had moved on and I resented them for it.
The anger and hatred I stuffed inside led to depression and suicidal thoughts. My oldest brother continued his path of rebellion and the chaos and tension continued in our home. I felt alone and lost. I shut myself away from almost everyone, spending hours and hours in my room listening to dark music. It would be years before, I came back home – the place I knew I always belonged to – home in the heart of my Heavenly Father.
Even as I hardened my heart against him, He never hardened His towards me. All it took was for a friend in college one day to remind me that God loved me. And suddenly I remembered, and I cried out to God.
I wrote about this encounter with God on my blog. I remember sitting in my father’s minivan one grey December day and praying something like:
Dear Jesus, all my life I’ve said I believed in you but I don’t know what that means. I’ve said that I love you but I don’t know how to love you. I’m so lost and confused. I know I haven’t lived my life right. If you are really there, will you please help me?
Even as I prayed, I could feel a warmth coming over and I felt a love that I’d never felt before and I just wept. I knew in that moment that God loved me and it was as if He was saying, “Welcome home, Hulda. I’ve always loved you.” I prayed for forgiveness for I knew I was a sinner. When the tears ended, I turned the radio on and found a Christian station and it seemed like the angels were singing through the airways. Prior to this I used to hate listening to hymns and found Christian music boring.
God’s love reaches to the uttermost
The amazing thing about God’s faithfulness and His goodness is, I know that His love reaches to the uttermost. Since my encounter with Him that December day, I’ve met other hardened, angry, hurting souls and I’ve had the joy of telling them of God’s love. I absolutely love watching how God redeems and restores our broken lives.
Seventeen years after my experience in college, my oldest brother invites me to lunch. And there over lasagna which he’d made, he tells me, he’s given his life to God. I stop eating waiting for the punch line for one of his jokes. He goes on to say how a friend had invited him to go to a meeting and he’d heard the preacher say you don’t have to clean up your life to come to Jesus. “Come as you are.” So he went forward. Then the tears came and I could hardly speak. Someone asked why I was crying and he answered for me. “They’re tears of joy, right?” I just nodded. He went on to say he got baptized and how he understands the missionary work we do.
Our God is faithful, so faithful, and I for one am so thankful that He never gives up on us. He loves us. He truly loves us no matter where we’ve been, what we’ve done or who we think we are. It’s never too late to come home to our Heavenly Father. Just as the preacher said, “Come as you are.” Papa loves you and waits for you with open arms.
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.
Luke 15:20 (NIV)
Loving Father, thank you that we can come to you even today; that you never turn away the weary, the hurting and the lost. Thank you that you are the healer of broken hearts, wounded souls and that you are more than able to restore lives. May you help us to open our hearts to you and your great love. And if we’ve never made that first step, may today be the day when we make our home in your heart. In Jesus name, Amen.
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