“Sometimes I’m angry at God”
“Could God possibly love me after all I’ve done?”
“I’m too fat.”
“I lied… again.”
“It’s hopeless – why even try? I give up.”

     Sometimes, I forget what it was like to be a teenager. Thankfully, Cristine and I are in discipleship with men and women who have/had teenagers and our oldest daughter is a full-blown 14 year old. Without going into too much detail, she’s going through some of the normal and not-so-normal struggles of being a teenager. None of the above statements are above because they do or don’t apply to her situation, they’re just indicative of thoughts many of us have struggled with at one time or another. Have you ever felt like that? Was it during that time of “lost”ness that can so often be synonymous with the teenage years?

In life there are at least four boxes that our choices fit into. They are as follows:

  1. Easy to do/feels good and is good for me
  2. Easy to do/feels good but is bad for me
  3. Hard to do/doesn’t feel good and is bad for me
  4. Hard to do/ doesn’t feel good but is good for me

I was drawn to box 2 and never long-term committed to box 4. When I chose to do 2’s or turned away from 4’s, I always wound up feeling guilty, empty, frustrated, or confused. Often, I would keep doing 2’s hoping if I did them enough, they’d suddenly become good for me. Sometimes, I’d “stick it out” with 4’s hoping they’d eventually start feeling better or getting easier just because I knew on some level they were good for me. Can you relate?

The “Prodigal Son” is a story about a kid who turned away from box 4 and wanted everything to be a 1. Easy and good. In fact, he probably believed, like most of us as teens, “if it feels good, it must be good“. That’ll get anyone stuck in a rut of doing 2s and avoiding 4s. What the Prodigal didn’t realize though, was what was at the bottom of the boxes. Look, if you dig far enough into any box, you’ll get to the bottom, won’t you? The bottom of the box tells the truth about what the box really is. So, when the money ran out, the Prodigal found the same things I found at the bottom of the boxes:

Box 1: Fruit and benefit
Box 2: Guilt, shame, depression, hopelessness, waste, diabetes, excess, addiction, etc.
Box 3: Bitterness, disappointment, temporary gain followed by guilt, shame or pain, etc. (see Box 2)
Box 4: Discipline, growth, fruit, wisdom.

One of the most awesome truths I’ve ever discovered in scripture is in this parable. In every parable Jesus told, there was a man-figure and a God-figure.

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