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Finding the Prodigal

Did you ever cross paths with someone who was both loveable and exasperating at the same time? Then you will understand Charles Dickensstatement, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Our beginning ministry included contact with a lovable, yet exasperating elderly man named Buck, who lived down the street from our house.

As a newlywed couple in our first pastorate, we were alert to helping those in need. Buck certainly qualified. His alcoholic lifestyle affected his neighbors and taxed every ounce of our patience.

Buck would totter into our little church, fully inebriated. One Sunday this unusual man announced to my husband that he wanted to sing a special song on the platform. He had it all planned.

“I’ll walk up the aisle as I start singing,” he said, “and I’ll have a blond on one side and a brunette on the other. The spotlight will be on me.”

Yes, he wanted to be in the spotlight—but fortunately there were no openings for a drunken lead singer and his imaginary lady friends.

My husband sometimes walked to Buck’s house to see if he had food in his pantry. If we hadn’t seen our neighbor for a few days, we knew he would be lying on his floor, passed out from heavy alcohol consumption. Liquor had such a tight grip on the man that any usefulness he could have possessed had disappeared long ago.

I was amazed at my husband’s determination to seek this wayward outcast.

I could only wonder when I saw him leave to go clean Buck’s house and try to persuade the man to change his ways. At least once, when on a drinking spree, this neighbor chased my husband out of his house with a butcher knife. Buck apologized the next day, still unwilling to admit he had a problem.

One Sunday, God’s presence tapped Buck on the shoulder.

Standing with the rest of the congregation at the close of a church service, our elderly friend trembled, white knuckles gripping the back of the seat in front of him. God spoke to his mind and heart in an unmistakable way that day, inviting the prodigal to return to his Father’s house. Buck just needed to walk a dozen steps to the front of the church and admit he needed help. Unfortunately, our neighbor chose to turn away from the only One who could change his life.

Afterward, the Lord impressed upon my husband that Buck highly esteemed the prayers of his mother. Sitting in this dying man’s living room he said, “Do you think your mother would say you are ready for heaven?”

Buck hung his head, all bravado gone. Right there, the man got down on his knees and asked God to forgive him for sinning against Christ’s sacrifice.

So, how did his life end? It was a bit of a mystery. Buck’s sister called several days later while my husband was away on business. She asked me to go to his house and see if I could get him to answer his door, because he hadn’t answered her phone calls that week. She suspected he was on another drinking spree.

It’s the mercy of God that his door was locked. I was expecting a baby, and the shock of what I would have seen would have been traumatic.

When the police finally broke the door down, they found Buck’s bloated, lifeless body lying on the floor beside his bed. Contrary to his previous condition, he was clean and didn’t reek of alcohol.

A mother’s prayers—and God’s extreme mercy-- had followed Buck all the way to the end of his wasted life.

Eternity—it’s only a breath away.

Do you know any prodigals who returned to their Father's house? Tell us about them below.


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