When He Came to His Senses


Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.

After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

“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.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

Luke 15:11-24

There is an interesting detail left out of the story of the Prodigal Son in the Bible.

How long was the son away from his father exactly?

It would appear from the story that he may have been away from his father for a considerable period of time.

When the younger son asked his father for his share of the inheritance, the father gave it to him. Jesus does give us a time reference for his leaving, “not long after that, he set off.”

The son, then, carrying with him all the blessings from his father, traveled to a “distant country” and “squandered his wealth.” After that period of time, “there was a severe famine.” Only then, did the younger take a job and begin to wish he was back home.

The only specific mention of time in the son’s return is this, “When he came to his senses… he got up and went to his father.”

I assume the reason that the specific period of time that the son was away from his father isn’t mentioned in the story is because this period of time looks different from person to person.

After leaving the community and family of God, some might come to their senses right away and return to their gracious Father, while others might take much longer coming to their senses.

Either way, our loving, faithful, patient, grace-filled Father will be there to accept us.

But I can’t help but notice the younger son in this story was probably separated from his father for a considerable period of time. He was blessed with much, traveled quite a distance, and seemed to have experienced quite a bit before returning.

I think that is how it can be sometimes when we try to live life apart from God.

We leave with all the gifts he has given us. I think here of talents, skills, knowledge, health, and financial means.

And for quite some time, we can survive solely on them—even apart from the community and family of God. We can still make money with our skills, live off our bank accounts, raise our families with the knowledge we’ve learned, and get by on our own in this world just fine even without the power and strength of God consistent in our lives.

We can spend years apart from God’s Word, neglecting prayer, disconnected from church, even making decisions for our selfish pursuits. And things, for the most part, seem to hold together just fine. God has given us much in our inheritance, and the distant country seems to accept us just fine.

The longer we live apart from God while life seems to progress just fine, the more apt we are to trust in ourselves rather than seeing we are living only off the blessings and inheritance of the Father.

Or maybe, even worse, we forget about the goodness and sweetness of communion with God and begin to think that feeding the pigs is all God has for us.

That is why each of us need to routinely “return to our senses.” We can take and squander the gifts of God in our life only for so long.

Everything may seem just fine living in a distant country apart from Him. But famine will eventually arrive when we trust in ourselves alone.

The sooner we come to our senses, the better.


Thank you for being a gracious and faithful Father who loves us unconditionally. The story of the Prodigal Son is a powerful reminder of your patience and desire for me to live life in your presence. If I have walked away from you in any way, please help me “come to my senses” and return to you. Amen.