by Edith M. “Edie” Sodowsky
An unpleasant farm chore on a wet afternoon leads to thoughts about the prodigal son and the saint-sinner tension in our Christian lives.
Returning from an afternoon event at church, I arrive home just in time for evening chores outdoors. I change clothes quickly, don my tall boots, and rush out to muck out the horse’s stall and paddock. I slog through the mud as I work in a cold, drizzling rain. The work is hard and dirty, and I am tired. I wonder: “Is this the kind of day the infamous prodigal of Luke 15 experienced when he first considered returning home?”
Halfway through my task, I reach up to adjust my collar—and touch cool beads. In my haste to get to my chores, I forgot to remove the double strand of cultured pearls I had hung around my neck that morning. I can’t help grinning about the irony. “Here I am,” I say aloud, “God’s prodigal daughter in muck boots and pearls.”
The image stops me in my tracks. I am simultaneously God’s prodigy and prodigal. I am both saint—a true daughter of the King through water, Word, and Spirit—and sinner, falling short in thought, word, and deed.
I am, indeed, a daughter of the heavenly Father, who loves me unconditionally. Through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus, God secured for me an amazing inheritance. I have immeasur-able spiritual wealth at my fingertips; I need only to open the Word or utter a word of prayer. My Father has an open-door policy, giving me access to His ear at any moment of my need. I am granted a huge bankroll of promises, guidance, and empowerment from the Holy Spirit, and more good gifts of physical provision than I can count.
I am also a prodigal. I do not always make wise use of my Father’s prodigious provisions of grace and love and mercy.
Without being aware of asking for it, at my Baptism I received an early inheritance: I gained immediate access to every promise God ever made to me as a believer—and I got to start eternity early.
What have I done with my astounding early inheritance? I could put on my best pharisaical face and say that I’ve led a “pretty good” life. Sure, I’ve done some things wrong, but I certainly haven’t killed anyone. I don’t remember seriously disrespecting my parents or stealing much more than an office paperclip or bank pen when I walked off with it without thinking. I don’t covet much, and I took my marriage vows seriously. I rarely miss church.
Yet I “leave home” every time I lose my patience, act without compassion, or do anything that does not honor God’s name. I squander God’s riches every time I hold onto my guilt, fail to make a daily withdrawal from the treasure of God’s Word, or hesitate to share the Good News of God’s love with others in need of it. The incongruity of pearls in one hand and a muck rake in the other is for me a powerful picture of the saint-sinner tension of my Christian life.
It occurs to me, however, that in another way, the “muck boots and pearls” image is not incongruous at all for one of God’s daughters. I am, after all, a follower of Christ, who came “not to be served, but to serve.” I am called to use all the resources available to me as a daughter of the King to serve others, whether I’m washing feet, ladling soup in a homeless shelter . . . or mucking out a paddock in a cold, drizzling rain.