“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:17-20; NIV)
I suffer from tunnel vision. Not the medical condition, the kind that affects your perception of reality. I focus on one thing so intensely that I miss other things, including things that are right in front of me. I've had people tell me that they have seen me driving, and that they honked to try and get my attention, but I was locked into some train of thought (and maybe had the stereo turned up) and didn't notice anything.
I've done this in life also, where I was locked into a state of mind, in pursuit of what I wanted, and no one could get my attention, including God. It happens when we are intent on our own plans, thinking that they will lead to happiness. God's path doesn't always seem to point in the direction of our dreams, so we plot our own course, and try to convince ourselves that he is part of it. We want our will to be done, and whether or not his is also done is easy to ignore.
I just gave a talk about the prodigal son in Luke 15, and the one thing that struck me the most powerfully was the realization that I am him. I plotted my own course, disregarded God's leading, and decided to call my own shots. I had my eyes on some vision of success, and couldn't see anything else. After a number of years, things started to fall apart for me, like they did for the prodigal. Then something happened. I came to my senses.
There is a dawning realization that comes when our own plans fail, a moment of clarity. It's like a light bulb turning on, shining brightly on our foolishness. We can recognize that we've sinned and drifted far from him. Perhaps we didn't blow all our money on wild living, but we can easily fall prey to the illusion that we can control things and put ourselves on our own path to happiness. Then things unravel, and we have an opportunity to see things differently. We can recognize that the pursuit of our own will has left us empty and desperate, and perhaps damaged the people we love the most. In that moment, we have a chance to make things right. We can turn away from our sin, and turn back to God. That's what the son did, in the parable. He knew the true source of love and life, and he knew that he had failed. In that moment, he came to his senses.
All that stands in the way is our own pride. We need to acknowledge that he knows best, and that we are responsible for everything that went wrong when we set our own course. That could mean a career that didn't honor him, distractions that pulled us away from obedience and holiness, or relationships that overpowered every other priority in our lives. Whatever it is, and however well meaning our intentions, we chose it. It's hard to relinquish control and admit we don't know what's best. To make everything right, we need to own that. We need to backtrack, own our failure, and make our way back to where we should have been all along.
Wherever you are at in your life right now, God is standing there, not far away, arms outstretched. He is the father in the parable, ready to offer his love and mercy for your failure. Ready to restore you as his child, and cover you with his blessings. We only need to come to our senses, stop whatever we are doing, and head back, into the arms of our father. His plans for us were always, and forever will be, the only thing we ever needed.