He Came to Himself
Each day in my elementary school, students were given a
laminated construction paper cutout of an apple if our behavior had been good, and a worm if it hadn’t. I can still picture
them in a line across the classroom’s front wall — apple, apple,
worm, apple. I don’t know that there was ever a row of apples
without at least one worm among them. And the worm was
what I homed in on. For me, one worm ruined all the apples.
To this day a paper worm is the image that comes to mind
whenever I fail at something. I agonize over each one of the
“worms” of my adult life just as I did in elementary school.
The prodigal in Luke 15 traveled down the lonesome
and difficult road of failure. He spent everything he had and
starved to the point that he envied the pigs their food. It’s
hard for me to imagine a bigger failure than the prodigal’s time
among the pigs.
About halfway through his story, scripture says, “He came
to himself” (Luke 15: 17, nrsv). Few words give me more hope
than those four. The prodigal came to himself. The more I sit
with the story, the more compelled I am by the beauty of the
prodigal’s revelation while feeding the pigs — the moment that
something gone quite awry becomes the grace that saves him.
And this brings me hope — for myself and for everyone.
For me, the story of the prodigal is not so much about his
poor decision, his father’s compassion, or his older brother’s
indignation. The point of the story is that there is hope. No
matter the pigpen I am in, I can come to myself.
I have realized that I will always have at least one worm
among all the apples. The prodigal reminds me that it is nigh
impossible to go through life without spending a little time in
the pigpen. The father’s compassion for and forgiveness of his
son is exemplary, and I sometimes wonder what pigpens he
had endured that enabled him to show such compassion to his
Perhaps therein lies the lesson. Many times in my life my
failures have taught me something that I needed to know,