What keeps us from a life fully surrendered to God? What separates us from living in the full potential of partnership with our Creator who has these good plans for our lives? Could it be the simple belief that we first need to clean ourselves up, then we will step into that? Could it be our desire to fix a few things first, figure a few more things out, then we’ll get ourselves back to God.

It’s kinda like thinking we will really start living when we look better in a swimsuit, or when we have more money, or when we find a job we enjoy more. But we don’t. You know why we don’t … because there’s always more. More you think you have to do. More pulling you away. More distracting you, overwhelming you, and keeping you stuck in a perpetual loop of “some day”.

Some day you will really seek that relationship with God, but it can’t be today because you’ve still got this little issue you’re dealing with, right? And why would God want to partner with you in this mess? Clean the mess up, then he will want you. Clean the mess up, then he can help you. Clean the mess up, then your life will get back on track.

So, Sis, how long have you been trying to clean this mess up? About as long as you’ve been trying to like the way you look in that swimsuit, have more money, and work at a job you actually want to go to on Monday morning. And, life just continues. Days pass. Years go by. And you’re still counting on “some day”.

Is this the conversation going on in your head? Trying to clean this up… Trying to change this… Trying to understand it better… And when you do, then you and God are going to get on the same page! But right now, you’re failing. And you’re frustrated … You’re embarrassed … You feel like such a failure … You’re wondering why you can’t just get your life together so you can come back to God with something he will actually want …

But, Honey, you’ve got this backwards. God never expected you to clean up this mess without him. He didn’t design you to get your life together without him. He didn’t create you to understand it first. You’ve been trying to live in reverse. Have you ever tried to drive any distance going in reverse? It’s just so much harder isn’t it? It’s awkward. You know why? Because that’s not how cars were designed to drive. And trying to live your life in this reverse fashion isn’t the way you were designed to live.

You don’t get your life together, then come back to God. You don’t figure it all out on your own, then present an approved plan to the Father. You don’t clean yourself up and then show up in order to be forgiven and accepted. You’re making this harder. You’re in reverse.

Jesus told us a story to help us understand how to drive right to him. Not in reverse, but in a life turned around in reckless abandon of the direction we were trying without him. The story is that of the Prodigal Son. You’ve likely heard it before, but today, I invite you to hear it like it’s the first time. Like it’s the story Jesus is telling you about your running, your seeking, your failing, your trying, and your long awaited return.

Luke 15: 11-24 “A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.

A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.

When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’

So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’

But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.”

Was the son wrong to take his inheritance and leave? Yes. Did he waste what he had been given? Yes. Was he living in sin, wracking up nothing but shame, guilt and regret? Yes. Had he failed miserably at trying this thing on his own? Yes.

So, what was required of him before coming back to his Father? Nothing more than an intention turn in his next step. A return step. A decision that he didn’t want to keep living the way he had been living. A decision that he was making a mess of this on his own.

But if you notice, the son had a plan of begging his way back in. He had even rehearsed his speech, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.” I mean how could he expect the Father he had willingly left and failed, to actually take him back when he had made such a mess of things?

Sound familiar? How could you expect God to want you when you’ve been away for so long? How could you expect him to look at you in the same way he once did after you’ve gone and made such a mess of yourself?

Ahhhh, but look at this … The son was living with the pigs, only hoping to steal some of their food. That’s low. That’s a rock bottom. That’s a pit. And you know that pit gets on you. He must have smelled bad. He must have looked horrible. But, he had no way to clean himself up. He had no change of clothes. He had no shower. He didn’t brush that hair or those teeth first.

He just returned. Returning is an intentional turn in direction. Not a reverse. A turn. I’m turning this thing around. I’m coming back. Exactly as I am, no longer waiting to change a single thing, I’m just beginning the return to the Father.

And notice what Jesus says about the Father. It says, “While the son was still a long way off”, which means the son still had a long way to go. He was still way off the good plans from his life. He was still so far away from his potential. He was still wrong, still dirty, and still covered in proof of how he had been living. But while he was still a long way off, “his father saw him coming.”

The father was always waiting for his return. Just as God has been awaiting your return. Not awaiting your fixing of this mess. Not awaiting your approved plan that shows you’ve now got it all together. No, just awaiting your turn around to begin coming back to him, exactly as you are.

And when the father saw him coming, HE RAN TO HIM, embraced him and kissed him! He didn’t need to hear the whole rehearsed line of, “Father, forgive me, you don’t have to accept me back, but can I work for you?” No, he knew his son had returned and that is all that mattered!

Imagine how the son must have looked. He had been living with pigs. Imagine how he must have smelled. Again, he had been living with pigs. As a little girl, we had a little family farm that included a family of pigs. Let me tell you, those are some messy, sloppy, stinky beasts. They wallow in the mess. And that is what the son had been doing, he had been wallowing in the mess he had created. And that mess had kept him stuck for far longer than necessary. All this time, his Father had been watching and waiting for the first step of his return.

If you’ve been wallowing in this mess, wondering how in the world you’re ever going to make this better, listen to what Jesus is saying to you today. He is saying, “you are not going to make this better! You’re not going to fix this. I’m going to!” Return to the Father now and watch him do it!

Nope, you don’t need a shower along the way. You don’t need 1 week of sobriety under your belt first. You don’t need a plan put together first. You don’t need a rehearsed and memorized prayer first. All God the Father has been waiting for is your direction. When your direction turns towards him, he comes running for you!

Yes, messy you. Yes, wrong you. Yes, guilty you. Yes, broken you.

And know this, he CELEBRATES your return. He’s not waiting for you with a big stick and angry eyebrows. He’s waiting for you with open arms and a kiss. He’s waiting for you with his very best to offer you.

You know what that best is? His BEST PLANS for your life. Yip, they’re still there. Those plans that he has had for you before you ever lived a single day and before you ever screwed this up … they’re still there. Psalm 139:16, “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment laid out before a single day had passed.” Those moments laid out included this moment where you simply decide to return. Return to the fullness of life your Father has for you.

No shower required. No fixing this necessary. No plans. No positive track record. Nothing more than a girl coming back to Papa God where she belongs.

Get yourself back to God. How? One step. Just a turn in his direction. Then, he comes running to you with all the strength you need, all the next steps you could never plan on your own, and all the help of a Father who holds everything in his mighty and capable hands … including YOU!

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