Love Letters: A Prodigal’s Welcome

We drove the windy road to his grandmas house. And I festered. My soul black and ugly, scarred by bitterness and resentment.

My baby boy, only 4 months old, strapped snugly into his new car seat. One of the only new things we had received at his birth. We were young and although we had planned and prayed for this baby, we hadn’t had money to purchase new things. Friends blessed us with hand me downs and I found some bargains at thrift stores but most of it was someone elses taste, someone elses first choice, not mine.

I didn’t want to go, but family obligation dictated that I had no choice.

Growing up it was just my brother and I. We didn’t have any close family. No big family dinners to attend or Christmas plans to negotiate between families. But I had married into Josh’s family, complete with aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and of course his sister Anna.

We had a long and complicated history. Three years younger than Josh, Anna and I had drifted apart as she made different choices and I found her harder and harder to tolerate.

I had grown to resent her and the easy way she seemed to skate through the trouble that she caused and my judgemental heart wanted nothing more than to expose her for who I felt she really was. Not the sweet girl who every one else perceived.

And so, when she found herself pregnant and single at 19, I felt vindicated. The truth of her lifestyle was coming out. I cringe at how much I let bitterness dictate my heart toward her.

But when the family rallied around her, forgave her, blessed her abundantly, the bitterness raged and grew overtaking my heart completely.

I tried to find grace for her, but with each new blessing, I only ended up tallying how this pregnancy was so easy for her while we struggled and scraped by. When we arrived at her baby shower, I took it all in, the decorations, the food, the relatives that had flown in for this special occasion, as well as the mounds of presents for her baby. My nephew.

I smiled and made small talk, added my present to the pile, and hated every moment of it.

And I got it, the fatted calf, the production made of the dirty prodigal, stinking with his obvious sin. His choices clung to him in the filth and dirtiness. His face shrunken and gaunt from feasting on pig scraps. And I saw her belly swollen with this child, and the feast that surrounded her, for she was lost and now was being found.

God’s goodness was bringing her heart to repentance. But in my own selfishness I accepted none of this.

How unfair, my bleak spirit cried like a petulant, spoiled child. And I was the prodigal’s brother: the one who was seemingly overlooked.

My ungrateful spirit didn’t see the blessings that were already abounding for me and the grace that covered me.

It shames me to say, but I hoarded grace like a pharisee. God used Anna to show me my own wretchedness.

I never knew the depth of my own depravity until I wrestled with my own self-righteousness. Before I walked with God my sins were plain, they were right there in the 10 commandments. But after the obvious was drawn away, what was left, what was far more insidious were the attitudes of my heart. The hidden things that I held in, all the while being a good Christian on the outside.

It’s her birthday today. And I can say that now, 11 years later, she is one of my dearest friends. She is kind and funny and compassionate. I have seen God work in her life in miraculous ways, clothing her in grace and calling her his own. And God has used her to speak to the areas of my heart that I needed to wrestle with. My own sin.

She is my sister and I love her.

And I have learned over the years that a true friend rejoices when their loved ones are blessed. A true friend celebrates their friend’s victories as their own. A true friend doesn’t allow jealousies and bitterness into their heart.

I always thought it was a true test of friendship to weather hard times to stick by your friends when they were down and out but really that’s not so hard. We get to play savior. We get to offer advice and dole out compassion. A friend’s hard times brings out the best in us, our sympathy, compassion, and caring. We shine.

But it is the triumphs of our friends that shows our true nature. If they succeed, are we happy for them? If they receive abundant blessings, do we rejoice? If honored or sought out or esteemed, do we step back and let them shine, cheering them on?

God has used Anna to show me how to be a true friend. To celebrate and rejoice when a friend does well. And she has done well.

Happy Birthday to my dear sweet sister. I thank God for you and the gift you are to me and those who are blessed enough to know you . You are beloved.

 

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Comments

  1. Wendy says

    So love your transparency friend. I have been in the place as well and am so thankful when He convicted me that I need to extend grace as freely as I receive it. Happy birthday to your sister! Thanks for sharing your heart! Blessings!

  2. Sarah Boston says

    What a well written post Alia. Beautifully and thoughtfully written with so much truth and transparency! I love it! God seems to use those people in our lives who we can’t escape to really shine the light on our sinfulness! It’s so cool to see the relationship you and Anna have and what’s it’s become. No more food fighting in the car! :)

  3. Ruth Hagenbach says

    Alia, this made me cry. Thank you for your honesty. We had to work thru alot of things thru that time too. The enemy wanted to steal our joy and confidence by making us believe we were worthless parents. One of our music pastors just wrote a song called “Grace Changes Everything”. It has been rolling thru my mind these past weeks. One day I was even thinking how the one guy who was on the cross by Jesus and asked him to remember him when he got to his kingdom. Jesus said Today you will be with me in Paradise. Grace….. it is available instantly and the enemy fights to get us to disbelieve it. You are so special to us and we are thankful for how God is using you in your writing and teaching the kids. We are glad you are in our family.
    love u.

  4. Julie Watts says

    Alia Joy,
    I love your vulnerability, a willingness to let your true self be shown. We learn from each others openness. We all have acted like the prodigal son’s brother in our own self righteousness, me included. Thank God that there is not any circumstance nor any person that He cannot forgive that He cannot forgive or give a second, and third, and fourth chance to. His grace goes beyond anything we can imagine..

    • Alia Joy says

      Yes, it is so much easier to see ourselves as a prodigal who is forgiven and accepted but we forget how human and fleshly it is to compare and see ourselves as more deserving of favor. We want grace for ourselves and justice for others. It is just how our flesh works when we are not repentant. So glad for grace and His immense patience and wisdom. Thanks, Julie. Miss you.

  5. Becky Daye says

    Thank you for sharing so honestly and beautifully!!! Oh, I love the glory that God receives in this. How He must love watching your friendship grow with your sister. Lovely!

    • Alia Joy says

      Thanks Becky. She is one of my dearest friends and I look back on my reaction during that short season and I think that I could have missed out on the chance for this beautiful friendship. We now have kids the same age and I am blessed to watch them grow together and be able to be wives and mothers and sisters. God makes all things new. All is grace.

  6. Anna Johnson says

    Alia you are such a beautiful and talented girl.. being that I am your sister in law Anna… I am sad to hear you ever felt that way. But I also rejoice in God giving us grace upon grace to salvage our way out of our sin.. Alia you have been there for me thru a lot of awful and awesome life experiences. I don’t know what I would have done without such a loyal loving sister in law.. I just want you to know that I love you and appreciate all the many wonderful things about you… and I look forward to creating more amazing memories with our families together. I love you Anna

  7. Barbie says

    Oh Alia, how did I miss this post? What an amazing testimony of how God grips a heart and turns it around, both Anna’s and yours. Thank you for sharon this story. Thankful for Kris’ Encore link up so that I could come back and read it!

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  1. [...] ground and says, be clean. And I missed something because I loved the victim but not the abuser. I longed for redemption but not for everyone. And justice knows that vengeance will come but it is not ours to dole out, for if we do, are we not [...]

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