I think I was 16 the first time I got arrested. I was caught driving the get away car. See, I was out with a couple of friends late one summer night playing a more grown up version of knock and run or whatever you may call it where you live. We thought it was hilarious to drive through a neighborhood with our headlights off, let one guy out of the car and send him up to knock on the door. Then my friend would sprint back to the primer blue Toyota Tercel and we would peel out and speed off into the night. This was all fun and games until that one fateful house in Sunnyside.
Since I was driving the get away car I would just go where they would tell me. I am truly directionless and really had no idea where we were and wasn’t really familiar with this neighborhood. Sometimes we could coast down a hill with the engine off since it was a five speed. We staked out our next house and we were ready. Engine was off, all was silent except frogs and whippoorwills. My friend tip toed to the door and then knocked REAL loud about 4 x and took off through the yard. He was sprinting like he was a football player about to score a touch down when OUT OF THE BLUE came an older man in his underwear who proceeded to tackle my friend. OH SNAP!! We didn’t know what to do.
My other friend in the car with me shouted, “Go man, drive” but I couldn’t leave my friend to the hands of some dude in his tighty whiteys. So I jumped out of the car and tried to pull my friend out from under the hairy middle aged man. Eventually, we got him free and we sped off into the night. We were all out of breath, laughing and trying to recount the incident when all of the sudden we saw blue lights in our rear view mirror. This is it, we were busted.
The officers pulled us over and asked “what are you boys doing in this neighborhood at 3am?” We must have just looked guilty cuz they arrested us on the spot. The police, for whatever reason, took me home that night instead of to a police station. I begged them to take me to jail because I knew that would be better than the reaction my parents were gonna have.
They pulled me from the back of the car and I stood on the front porch of my house handcuffed and surrounded by 2 officers. It took a little while for my parents to wake up, after all it was 3 in the morning. Finally after a few minutes the porch light came on and my heart began to pound. This was it, my life was over as I knew it. There I stood in my baggy, acid washed jeans and backwards starter cap and then my stepdad emerged from the shadows and slung open the front door in his underwear. They began to explain to my parents why they were bringing me home, it was brutal.
The officers then turned me over to my parents. The looks they gave me are hard to describe. Disappointed doesn’t even begin to touch it. They both stood in the living room as I sat on the couch. They were both yelling and screaming and pointing their fingers at the same time. Then my stepdad looked at me and said “well, what do you have to say for yourself.” I don’t remember exactly what I said but I’m pretty sure it started out something like “See, what had happened was…”
See, I had tried to come up with a good story in the back of that police car. I came up with excuses about how it wasn’t my fault and I was just the driver, blah, blah. My parents were so irate they hardly let me get a word in so it didn’t really matter, they weren’t really interested in my story.
Years later, I’m sheepishly sneaking into the back of an AA meeting. I had been battling addiction for some time at this point and had just come out of relapse. I thought if I snuck in and grabbed a seat as usual that nobody would even notice my long absence. Much to my chagrin, they did. I started getting hugs from people I didn’t even know and everyone was saying the same thing. “Welcome back, we’re so glad you made it back.” Wait, what?
See, I had already prepared excuses for anyone who asked me about my relapse. I was gonna tell them how I was just so stressed out and my girlfriend told me I was better off just trying to control my drinking, etc. I had a ton of excuses but it was as if nobody could even hear me. I tried to tell them “See, what had happened was…” and no response just “welcome back.”
There’s a well known parable in the Bible most know as the parable of the Prodigal Son. The story focuses on a man and his 2 sons. One son looks at his father one day and says basically, “Dad, you’re not important to me, I want my inheritance now.” This was basically like saying “Dad, you’re dead to me, now give me my $$” So, the father gives him his inheritance much to the dissaproval of his older brother and I believe as really sad father.
Jesus goes on to say in this parable that the younger brother spent his inheritance on wild parties, prostitutes, crack and late night Waffle House(my more modern translation.) The younger brother finally spends ALL his money and winds up broke and homeless. He even got a job feeding slop to the pigs. The Bible says he was so hungry that he daydreamed about eating the slop he was feeding to pigs.
This is when he hit his “bottom” as we call it in recovery. The Bible says “he came to himself”, he had a moment where he finally realized what he had done and was ready for a way out. He then made a plan to go back to his fathers house to ask for a job as one of his fathers servants. He was at an all time low.
On his way home he was rehearsing a speech over and over that probably sounded something like “See, what had happened was…” The Bible goes on to say that while he was still a “long way off” the father saw the son and ran toward him. No, it wasn’t to scold him or lecture him on how he had blown it but instead to welcome him home!! The story goes on to say that the father wouldn’t even listen to his story, he basically ignored him because he was too busy welcoming home. The father then threw a party for his son that had been lost and was now found!!
For a long time in my life I thought that in order to have a relationship with God that I would have to clean up, get rid of some of my bad habits, my addictions and what have you. I think religion made me believe that I had to have all the right words for an apology for God to get back in a relationship with Him or even start one with Him. I had worked up my “see what had happened was…” story but I thought it was just too messy for God to handle. I thought I had disqualified myself from ever being in a relationship with God.
What Jesus is saying in this parable is that the Father isn’t interested in where we’ve been or what we’ve done, he’s too busy just welcoming us home and he’s ready to throw a party. He will certainly allow you to use the story of where you’ve been to show others of his love, grace and redeeming power but as far as beating us up over the details, it’s NOT happening, never.
The term “repent” gives me the hee bee gee beez. I think I’ve just heard it used so wrongly for so long. It just simply means to turn the other direction. When I screw up I don’t have to come up with a fancy prayer or go see a priest, I just turn the opposite direction and head back home. I’m just like the Prodigal son, who’d wasted his inheritance and disgraced his family. The Bible says he “came to himself” and headed toward his fathers house, this was simply a turn in the opposite direction of all that was destroying his life.
God is the same way. He is perpetually inviting us into his abundant life(John 10:10). He’s not concerned about where we’ve been or what we’ve done and he ISN’T expecting us to start with “See, what had happened was…” he just wants us to come home!! He’s ready to throw a party!!