Several years ago I ran across the work of a Canadian poet named Ethelwyn Wetherald who lived in the early part of the 20th century. While doing some research on her writings, I found a little-known poem she wrote about what it’s like to be a prodigal on the way back home but with your heart not yet changed.

In just a few sentences “Prodigal Yet” captures the plight of the straying child who isn’t quite ready to give up the high life in the “far country”:

Muck of the sty, reek of the trough,
  Blackened my brow where all might see,
Yet while I was a great way off
  My Father ran with compassion for me.

He put on my hand a ring of gold,
   (There’s no escape from a ring, they say)
He put on my neck a chain to hold
  My passionate spirit from breaking away.

He put on my feet the shoes that miss
  No chance to tread in the narrow path;
He pressed on my lips the burning kiss
  That scorches deeper than fires of wrath.

He filled my body with meat and wine,
  He flooded my heart with love’s white light;
Yet deep in the mire, with sensual swine,
  I long-God help me!-to wallow to-night.

Muck of the sty, reek of the trough,
  Blacken my soul where none may see.
Father, I yet am a long way off-
  Come quickly, Lord! Have compassion on me! 

I read those words and think about how quickly we can fall, how far we can go, and how easy it is to deceive ourselves and others. Those searing words speak to an inner battle we all feel from time to time, a battle we sometimes sing about in more familiar words:

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love.

I know that many who read my words have prodigals in your life. You have loved ones who are away from the Lord. Some of them grew up in Sunday School. Some went to a Christian college. Some of them you raised to love Jesus. Some of them once could quote hundreds of Bible verses. Some were leaders in their youth group. Some went on mission trips. Some were preachers. Some were missionaries.

Today they are far from God.

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You can reach the author at ray@keepbelieving.com. Click here to sign up for the free weekly email sermon.