My wife JoJo told me the other day that she’s been hearing some noises in the basement. Noises huh… oh well, I’ll go check it out. So I go down to the basement, where I have one of those wood burning barrel stoves with a stove-pipe to the wall and up probably a 25 foot high chimney. While I stood there all of a sudden I heard something flailing around INSIDE my wood stove! What could that be? One time I had a squirrel inside the stove, in the summer no less, and when I left him out I had quite the time getting him out of my basement!
So I stood to the side of the stove, unlatched and swung open the door. Nothing happened. I tapped on the barrel, nothing. I peered around the stove and looked inside waiting for a squirrel to barrel right over me but instead there sat the sorriest looking bird you ever did see. He was blinking his eyes and was all covered with ashes. He was standing but barely, and so I took a piece of wood more like a yard stick and “encouraged” him to come out. It took some gentle pushes but he jumped up on the edge of the door frame and finally out onto the floor. He was not in a flying mood. So I got real brave and grabbed him from behind and he left out a weak squaaaawwwk!
I took him up and out the cellar steps to the backyard, tapped on the window of the house so JoJo could see the source of the noise, and then tossed him into the air. He flew kind of like a baby bird does when pushed out of the nest too early, but nevertheless he did fly away.
So you’re probably wondering how in the world did a bird get into my wood stove? This is how it happens, my chimney is fairly large with two flues extending above it and there is some space around the flues where a varmint, squirrel, bird or what have you can sit or perch. I’m figuring the bird simply was perched there and went to hop up onto the flu and hopped a bit too far and down the black hole he goes!
So what does this have to do with the Christian walk? Allow me to spiritualize…. Christians, if they’re not careful, can get themselves into places where there are black holes. The place could actually be a real place, or it could be a relationship, maybe it could even be an attitude or an emotion. Before you know it, one more step in the wrong direction and you find yourself caught in a dark place with seemingly no way out. The atmosphere in that place is caustic and so you try with every human ounce of strength you have to get out, and all it does is raise more dust and ashes. Maybe you even tell yourself, “It’s not that bad in here, I’ll be just fine”! When in fact, you are SO far from the Father’s will but cannot even recognize the peril of your situation.
The Prodigal Son found himself in such a place. He demanded his family inheritance before it was time, then turned his back on his father and left to go to a dark place far away from home. He didn’t know it at the time but once having taken steps away his future became darker and darker until finally, he found himself starving and slopping pigs and considering joining in on their supper! Like the bird in my story, there was someone greater than the situation in which he found himself and the door was opened.
The Prodigal’s door was the gift of repentance which is what all of us need to escape the dark places. Repentance you ask? Yes, it takes a turning away from the dark toward the light of our Savior and that is a gift from God. It is like walking in the wrong direction away from the Lord, and when you recognize the error of your way you stop, turnaround, and now you are facing Him, so you confess your sin and then walk with Him in the opposite direction. This can be a daily process and don’t be discouraged if you find yourself doing it often. The Apostle John knew it would happen when he wrote, “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
I just love the picture at the end of the story of the Prodigal Son. In my mind I can see the Father every evening standing on a hill watching for his son on a long winding road leading away from home. One day as he lifts his hand to shield his eyes from the sun, far off he sees his son trudging home with his head down in shame. The father runs to meet him and the son cannot believe the unconditional love and forgiveness showered upon him. The moral of the story is first of all stay close to the Father away from the dark places but when needed run from that place to a loving and forgiving Heavenly Father and let the celebration begin!