By Joan Endicott
There was once a young man—I’ll call him Nasaa*—who dishonored his father’s name and disgraced his family in his village. He decided to leave home because he wanted to escape the dullness of his ordinary family and village life. Once he left, he did indeed find more excitement. For a while he even prospered in his self-indulgent lifestyle. Nasaa visited a hotel where girls were kept in every room. Some were older—some were as young as ten. He became involved in prostitution and luring men into the hotel, and also started selling drugs. Eventually he got involved in kidnapping and selling girls. That’s how low he had sunk. Those in this community viewed Nasaa as one of the most powerful, successful, and wealthy businessmen they knew.
Then one day the bottom dropped out. Nasaa was robbed, arrested, and finally ended up living in a very dangerous part of town near the city dump. As he sat there day after day in his misery, he thought about his father and the simple, quiet, peaceful life he had when he lived at home in his village. He remembered his father’s parting words when he left 15 years ago: “Son, I’ll be waiting for you!” Nasaa began to doubt that his father would still be waiting.
Knowing that his lifestyle and choices had made it back to the village he couldn’t help but wonder how his father would feel about him now, considering all the things he’d done. Surely, he wouldn’t want him back now. But he decided to take a chance and write a letter to his father. “Father, please forgive me. I want to come home, but I don’t know if you’ll want me back because I’ve sinned greatly. I’m going to come on the 6 p.m. train on Saturday night and if you’ll still want me to come home, would you tie a white handkerchief on a branch of the tree out in front of the house? If I see that, I’ll know you want me back. If it’s not there, I will understand. I will just stay on the train and keep going.”
On the trip home he began to think about his life and think about what his father might say. He got so nervous, so anxious and so afraid that he was going to be rejected that it became obvious to some of the people sitting around him that he was having a problem. One man asked him, “Son, what’s wrong?” Nasaa began to share with him the dilemma he was in and how frightened he was that his father wouldn’t want him back. Then as they got closer and closer to his father’s house, Nasaa was so scared that he didn’t even want to look.
“I can’t look,” he said. “I’m so afraid he won’t want me back; I can’t even look. Will you watch for me and if you see a white handkerchief in the tree, would you tell me that it’s there?” Nasaa’s heart was racing as he buried his face in his hands and leaned over and began rocking back and forth. Still too afraid to look yet so anxious, he asked, “Sir, do you see it? Do you see a handkerchief? Is there a handkerchief in the tree? Is there just one white handkerchief on any branch of the tree?” And the man said, “Son, there’s not one white handkerchief on one branch. There’s a white handkerchief on every branch of the tree. That tree is filled with handkerchiefs!”
Everyone around him clapped and cheered and many eyes were filled with tears. Nasaa jumped up to look out the window and could hardly believe his eyes. Not only was the tree filled with beautiful white welcoming flags representing unwavering, unconditional love, but running toward the slowing train was his elderly father with tear-filled eyes waving his white handkerchief, shouting, “Son, I’ve been waiting for you!”
There are various real-life examples of similar stories—but they started with Jesus sharing his parable of the prodigal son.
I wonder how much time Nasaa spent worrying about his father’s response? He speculated about what he would think, say, or do—mostly assuming the worst. Once he finally chose to push through the pain of the past and move forward in faith, he could then move toward experiencing the blessing of an authentic relationship with his father.
What Nasaa had built up in his mind about his father determined his behavior. Although the father had done nothing to make Nasaa believe he would no longer want him, his shame, self-doubt, and fear told him otherwise. Once he could see for himself that it wasn’t too late and that his father wasn’t mad, he was able to let go of the pain of the past and run into his father’s arms.
As John 10:10 says, the devil comes to “kill, steal and destroy”, so if he can feed our fears and keep us from believing God, then he needn’t do anything else. God’s Word and His promises are the doubt-dousing Truth we all need—Every. Single. Day!
Maybe, like me, while reflecting on this story a few things come to mind. I encourage you to write them out, pause, ponder and pray about them.
The first and most important for me is that it makes me wonder how much time I’ve spent in fear and worry because I hadn’t made it a priority to really learn and know the heart of my Heavenly Father.
When you think about it, every thought, attitude, and action (behavior) is tied to a belief of some kind. Just the act of sitting in a chair proves you believe it’s going to hold you. Our behaviors put our beliefs on display. If someone says they believe God’s promises, yet live in constant fear, worry, and doubt, some part of that cannot be true because they are incongruent with one another.
These are three simple, yet profoundly reflective questions to ask yourself:
“Who and what am I believing right now?”
“What does my behavior indicate I believe about God’s love, character and promises?”
“What is at the core of my belief—what is it connected, tied, yoked or tethered to?”
The answers reveal why we live the way we do. If I make decisions based on fear, I am not believing God; I am believing the enemy of my soul. “Fear is putting faith in what the devil says instead of faith in what God says.” – Joyce Meyer
Matthew 11:28-30 says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
When I am yoked to believing things of this world, I am stressed, worried, anxious, and act hesitantly, even cowardly. I can start spiraling down that dark, deceptive, and dangerous black hole of fear: fear of not being good enough, fear of what others will think, fear of failing. Notice, all these things are opposite of what God so graciously gives us.
In recognizing that, when I start feeling spiritually incongruent, ill-at-ease, or restless, I ask myself, “Joan, what are you yoked to?” It can be as simple as feeling like I don’t measure up because I’ve been on social media too much and see everyone else’s highlight reel (which of course looks pretty darn perfect from where I sit). So, if I yoke myself to things of this world that are broken, superficial, and hopeless, guess what? I start feeling broken, superficial, and hopeless.
When I am firmly connected and yoked to Jesus, burdens are lifted because I can immediately hand them over to the only one who is equipped for such heavy lifting. Staying connected to THE ONE who is THE WAY, THE TRUTH and THE LIFE is the only way we can live the peaceful, abundant life He offers. Once I recommit and reconnect to my Lord and Savior, I begin renewing my mind and replacing the superficial with the supernatural!
If you want to find out what you’re yoked to, simply pull back the curtain and examine your thoughts, words, attitudes, and behaviors. Since your behaviors are tied to your core beliefs, start pulling in that line and see where it leads you. For example: If I want to go shopping but don’t need anything, I might ask myself, “Joan, are you believing you’ll fill a void by buying something?” (Notice I said I might ask myself that!)
Feeling far from God?
It’s the state of our humanity to feel far from God at various times for various reasons. I love how the pictures that portray Jesus standing at the door, knocking, have no handles on the outside of the door. He knocks and patiently waits for us to answer and open it to Him.
Just as Nasaa could not redo his past or wipe that slate clean, neither can we. Had Nasaa truly known his father’s heart, he would have wasted no time in coming home. No matter what, no matter when, our Lord and Savior is ready for you to come running into His arms—either for the first time or the 101st time. It’s never too late. You haven’t blown it so bad that God is mad. In fact, it’s opposite: He’s mad about you!
My friend, it’s never about what you’ve done or haven’t done; it’s all about what HE did on the cross to show how much He loves you. His arms were stretched out then and they still are, always waiting for you to come running into them.
(*This story of Nasaa, my fictitious name, is my compilation of several such stories I’ve heard over the years.)
Grab your FREE copy of Joan Endicott’s “I Get To!”® book at JoanEndicott.com. Joan is an Award-Winning Keynote Speaker, Author and Coach who’s coaching has reached over 30 countries. Meet her and enjoy her encouraging messages on Facebook and Instagram!