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Written by Richard Bent
It is a Friday afternoon and a man called Henry is standing on the bank of a dam. A small natural stream runs into it. Two weeping willow trees hang over the water. The grass and plant life is lush and green. It is a very picturesque scene. It has been over twenty years since Henry stood on the bank of this dam.
It was here, some years ago, that he had stood before his father and demanded to be able to leave the family farm: to leave its stifling confines and what he felt was the constricting way of life that his family lived.
Twenty years ago - just three months after his eighteenth birthday - he had, in his youthful and disrespectful arrogance, demanded money from his father so he could go and make something of himself in the city: go where the excitement was, to spread his wings and live 'life', rather than live and work here on the family farm.
He wanted to do what he wanted, whenever he wanted to. Yes, twenty years ago he had stood on this very spot and demanded all this.
His father had handed over an envelope with a very large amount of money in it. But he then begged Henry to reconsider what he wanted, to stop and considerhis actions, to think of his family and the way of life he was giving up.
It had all finished with Henry yelling and arguing with his Father, who countered all Henry's arguments with the wisdom and love born of experience. But - it was to no avail. Henry turned his back and left, never to return. Until today.
Now, twenty years later, his eyes were bloodshot and red rimmed-- his face gaunt and lined from years of working and playing too hard. Henry was now preparing himself to go before his father and ask for his father's forgiveness.
As he considered the words he would say to his father he put his hand in his pocket. He felt the old key that he had been carrying round for the past few months.
This was the key that had started this journey to his old home. As he felt the old brass key in his hand, he began to sob, the salty tears now flowing down his face in a great stream. His throat and chest felt as if a huge band had been placed around them, squeezing so tight he thought he would burst.
Henry's whole body shook with great spasms of pain and anguish. Then he felt a large strong workman's hand placed on his shoulder. Calm and reassuring words were spoken. As Henry turned and looked into the man's eyes he felt the love and forgiveness that he so earnestly desired.
In Luke 15:11 we find the Parable of the Lost Son, or prodigal son. The word 'prodigal' basically means "wasteful extravagance", especially with regards money.
"A certain man had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.' So he divided to them his livelihood.
13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.
14 But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land and he began to be in want. 15 Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything."
The parable then goes on to explain how the son returns home to seek forgiveness from his father, and is welcomed back into the household.
The older brother who was faithful was very unhappy about this but the Father explains in verse 31:
31 "And he said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. 32 It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.'"
Let's now return to the story about Henry standing at the dam on his father's property. Earlier in the day Henry had been walking along the dirt and gravel of the country road leading to his father's farm. He was miserable and despondent. The same thought continually went through his mind: "Oh how the mighty have fallen".
As he walked, Henry could feel the weight of the old brass key in his pocket. His mind drifted back to that day over a year ago to when he received the key. At the time, he was high - high on adrenalin. He had just closed the biggest deal of his life, a deal that would make him rich beyond his wildest expectations.
Oh sure the deal was risky, and there was everything at stake --- he'd mortgaged everything he owned and then some. He'd also smooth talked all his friends and business associates to invest with him. He reasoned that they'd sure thank him when they, too, made millions.
Henry had worked hard over the years to build his small real estate empire, but now, now he was heading for the big time, and once he hit pay dirt on this deal, the world would be his for the taking!
Just then his phone beeped, reminding him to stop by his solicitor's office to pick up a package that had been sent to him. He didn't know what it was but it must be important if his solicitor was holding it for him. He collected the parcel from his solicitor. It was from his father.
He returned home to his twentieth floor penthouse apartment, and went to a cupboard where he kept a large shoe box that was full of unopened letters -- all from his parents. He had never opened them. He preferred to ignore their existence. But for some reason he just couldn't throw them out. He placed the small parcel with the letters,
He was afraid to open it, so it joined the letters; out of sight, out of mind.
As Henry stood in front of the picture windows, looking out at the city's riverfront and the bright lights of the city, he felt invincible; nothing could stop him now on his march to vast wealth, and the power that came with it.
Three months later Henry stood in front of the picture windows of his apartment and looked out at the city lights for the last time. In the last couple of months he had aged ten years, his hair had turned gray and his face showed the stress and strain that of a ruined man. He was broke and humiliated. "Oh, how the mighty have fallen".
The deal that was supposed to make him millions had been a complete scam, perpetrated by an international con artist who preyed on wealthy investors who were blinded by their unbridled greed.
As Henry turned to leave his now empty apartment, he went back to the cupboard and took out the parcel that was still there. He put it in his small carry bag, which now contained all his worldly possessions.
Months later, after working a twelve hour shift cleaning the waste bins in a seafood processing plant, this small package from his father fell out of his bag as he was getting changed to go home to the men's hostel where he now lived. He sat on the bench and finally opened it up. Inside was a note from his father, and an old brass key.
The letter read "My dear son, ever since you left all those years ago, my greatest desire has been for you to someday return home to us and to put God once again in your life. This key opens a box that is on the shelf behind my desk in the workshop office. It contains my most precious possessions.They are yours whenever you need them."
Henry wondered what was in the box that was so precious. He knew that his Father had once found a small gold nugget in the stream near the dam on the farm. Perhaps he could go home, retrieve it, and start all over again?
Henry walked along the country road, finally arriving at the gate to his parent's farm. He paused at the gate but steeled himself to move forward.
The farm was deserted.
Henry then remembered vaguely that his parents would always go into town on Friday morning for their groceries in preparation for the weekly Sabbath. He continued to the workshop at the top of the small hill overlooking the dam.
A few moments later Henry found himself starring at the box on the shelf behind his father's desk. Taking the key out of his pocket, his hands shaking, he unlocked the box and lifted the lid.
Henry stopped breathing for a moment when he saw the contents. It was not what he was expecting. He laid the two items on the desk and wondered what his father had intended.
The first item was a leather bound journal that looked vaguely familiar. The second item was a well worn Bible.
In the middle of the Bible he could see a folded piece of paper. He opened the Bible and took out the paper and read what was on it.
"My dear son, if you are reading this my heart is filled with joy, as you have finally returned home. Inside this box are my two most precious possessions. The first is the journal you gave me on my birthday just before you left.
"I sold the gold nugget so I could give you the money you needed. This journal is the only thing I had to remind me of you, for you and your brother are my most precious possessions.
"The second is my old Bible that I had when God first called me to His truth. I pray that you will open it and come back to the life and truth you had before you left.
"Remember my son that God will always forgive you, but please don't leave it until it is too late.
"P.S.: Look up Luke 15 verse 11 to 32 and read the parable of the prodigal son who returned home to his father."
Henry read the parable, and sat for a while thinking about its meaning.
He was a prodigal son and the parable told him that his father was waiting at home to receive him with forgiveness and joy. Henry walked out of the workshop office and down to the dam.
He planned that he would wait there until his parents came home. Then, he would ask for his parents' forgiveness. Then, he would spend a lot of time in prayer asking God for forgiveness for all he had done and all he had given up.
It was not too long before his father and mother returned to the house.
As Henry's father was putting their vehicle away, he noticed someone standing by the dam. He walked closer and his heart jumped a several beats. Had his prayers been answered?
He could see that Henry was in deep distress. He walked up behind him, put his hand on his son's shoulder, and said the words he had wanted to say for twenty years:
"Welcome home, son".
After a hug that seemed to last for an hour, Henry's father said "Let's go down to see Mum, she's cooking up a storm for the Sabbath night meal. Will you be joining us for Church tomorrow Henry? Everyone has missed you all these years."
"Yes Dad, I will be there," Henry said. "I have missed too much already, I won't be missing anymore".
Every human being has strayed away from God the Father, and needs to return home. The attractions of this world and the deceitfulness of riches are temporary. They can never fulfil the innermost desire God has placed in the heart and mind of every human being, which is to have a loving, trusting, confident relationship with Him.
Henry went away to enjoy the sights and attractions of the world. But he found no real happiness and contentment in those activities. It was only when he returned home to his Father that he had peace of heart and mind.
God in heaven has a plan by which every human being who has strayed from home can return to Him. We are blessed because we have been able to return home prior to the vast majority of mankind.
And we will have the priceless opportunity to help welcome home all who, with a repentant heart, turn to God. And like the father of the prodigal son, our Father in heaven will welcome, with great joy, all who return home to Him.
He is our Father. We are His children.
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