Thought for the Week - 24th January 2016Vanda Hopkin
Luke 15: 13-24
And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.
“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”’
“And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring[a] out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.
This message is usually used as a gospel message for those who are yet to come to Christ, or for those who have gone astray. But the message that I want to discuss today actually applies to us all – regardless of whether you’re very young, a parent or grandparent, work with young people, or have been a Christian for many years.
Being young is hard! I hated being young, it wasn’t a nice feeling. I hated school and I hated the house… I wasn’t an adult and I wasn’t a child; it was a really difficult time! And that’s why this message is for everyone, because we need to understand what’s going on in our young people’s minds, lives and hearts. Perhaps we also need to understand what has gone on in our own minds and hearts over the years… things that we still carry today. Many of us still carry things from a long time ago.
Over the summer, I read a book by Jim Cymbala, the leader of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, a massive church attended by thousands of people every week. Jim’s wife leads the famous and award-winning choir. Together, they had three children… one of which went astray. Their daughter, Chrissy Cymbala, eventually came back to Christ, and over the New Year I read her book “Girl in the Song”. And that’s what I want to talk about today, because she was the prodigal daughter.
She was the eldest child brought up in a very safe, loving home and Christian environment. She was surrounded by well-known Christians. Her father doted on her and took her on tours etc. She was loved by her parents and they constantly reassured of their love for her. God was moving deeply in their church, with ministries, outreach and evangelism. The move of the Holy Spirit and the anointing was great.
However, when she was 11 or 12, something happened within the church and the associate pastor ran away with a woman in the church. The man’s wife, was very close to Chrissy and looked after her, was devastated. But it devastated Chrissy too and it started to rock her. She became very insecure… this secret deep inner voice made her worried that she was not good enough for everyone else. Even when we’re brought up in secure homes, we can have an insecurity deep within us.
By 14 she had to be perfect, wearing make-up and dressed perfectly. At 15 she started to become interested in boys. Two older boys came to the church and she became interested in one. She made a beeline for him, but was so insecure that she felt compelled to keep him. The voice of insecurity became louder than God… she needed more makeup and to become more perfect. She started to become deceptive and manipulative, seeing the boy in secret and stealing money from her parents to buy more clothes.
Her parents became concerned by the fact she was distancing herself from them. She reassured them, but she kept her secret. She still attended church and went to the meetings, but remained far from where she should be and far away from God. Her parents started to talk to her about Bible College, which she used as an opportunity to get them off track. God at this point said to her that He still wanted her and still had plans for her. She knew that God was speaking to her, yet was so obsessed by the boy and remained afraid to lose him. So she did the only thing she knew to try to keep him. She knew at this point that she’d gone so far that she didn’t know herself anymore… she’d built another persona not recognised by herself or others in order to keep this boy.
She invited the boy to come and see her in the place she was living and would sneak out for 3 to see him. One one occasion, she got back to her room in the early hours, long past her curfew and on her return the Dean was there with her bags packed. She was expelled her for her deception and sent back to her parents. She said:
“A battle raged inside me. On the one hand, the thought of hurting my mom and dad was devastating. I couldn’t get the pain of my dad’s voice out of my mind. I was causing them so much anguish and yet I couldn’t turn my back on Jay. The conflict inside me was relentless, nearly driving me insane. I loved my parents, but I didn’t want to change. In that moment, something cold encased my heart. I really didn’t care who I hurt, because I made my choice. I wanted what I wanted. I was going to be with Jay, whatever the cost.”
She returned home but continued the relationship. She had job after job, and turned down a position with Estee Lauder so she could spend more time with her boyfriend. She became pregnant and went to live with his parents. She had a very uncertain relationship with him; he wasn’t madly in love with her, and did not offer to marry her. ! always non committal. She knew the relationship wasn’t right, but she was trapped, and he didn’t care. She had the baby and eventually became the type of person that she’d seen her father used to help over the years.
She became physically unwell and eventually moved out and went to live with a Christian who was an old friend and member of her father’s church. She tried to go back to her parents, but they recognised she was trying to manipulate them and as hard as it would have been for them, wouldn’t let her in the house. One night, the lady had gone to prayer meeting, when Chrissy got very afraid. She felt a sense of oppression come into the room and saw a dark shadowy shape; a demon. But at the same time, there came an illuminous form of light. The darkness says to her that “I have you and I will have you” (the baby). She sees the darkness flee the light (the presence of Christ).
She falls into a deep, restful sleep and when she woke, she felt very different- almost as if she had come to her senses. She tells her friend that she wants to pray… she recognises, like that prodigal son, where’s she’s been. She rings her father, ready to leave that relationship to one side and asks for his forgiveness.
What she didn’t know is that in that prayer meeting, someone had handed her father a note saying “tonight is Chrissy’s night”. They had all started praying and pleading for her! Such was the power of God! They were faithful and they prayed for her – as it was happening, it broke the power of sin and grip on the girl. This was a turning point. She was prepared to recognise that up until then she’d wanted her own way. As soon as she turned to God, the heavens opened!
Her foundations weren’t built on Christ. She’d grown up in a Christian environment, but she’d started to build her foundation on herself, her looks, and being valuable to others. If she’d shared about those voices when she was 11 or 12, her parents could have helped. They would have covered her and prayed for her. If she had sought God, he would have turned her right around. But she hid them, and those deceptions grew.
Her foundations were built on deceptions… but God can’t have that! We can put layer upon layer of deception, but it isn’t going to work. Maybe all of us have done that over the years, but we need to get rid of those insecurities! It nearly killed her – she had years of insecurity and misery. God says we don’t have to live like that. We can’t live like that… how can we proclaim Christ as the answer if He’s not in our lives? We desperately need to get all these things out into the open… to have prayer, healing and ministry… it needs to come out! People we meet need to know that God can heal every insecurity; He can heal us to the uttermost.
We need to stand on His word and face it those insecurities not bury them, hide them away so that they rise up again and again and spoil our lives or even ruin it altogether.
Some of us have created a different persona from what God intended us to have. We can be shaped by ourselves or others. But we have to be who God wants us to be… and nobody else. We have to go back to God and ask Him where we started to create to a persona that isn’t ours and ask him to change and free us from that.
God does change us into someone different… all those things that are painful to us, He’s come to heal, cut off, cleanse or get rid of. He doesn’t put new wine into old wine skins, he makes new wine skins! Take heart that we don’t need to live with those insecurities any longer. God has a place for us.
If we are tempted to run away or hide, there is no need! There is a truth in God! God is changing us. He’s changing us for the better – God needs those foundations to be firm and true. If we’re building anything different , get rid of it now and go back to God. He’s there waiting. He’s not going to turn any of us away… He is the loving father! Amen!