The Prodigal and the Penguin

The world has been captivated by Happy Feet, a young emperor penguin who washed up on New Zealand's Peka Peka beach some 2,000 miles from his native Antarctica.  Only the second emperor penguin ever to land in New Zealand, Happy Feet appeared healthy when beach goers first spotted him in the surf.   His condition rapidly deteriorated after he began eating sand, sticks, and rocks from the beach.  Emperor penguins normally hydrate themselves by eating snow in Antarctica. Happy Feet apparently mistook New Zealand's sand for snow, consuming over twelve pounds of it before zoo officials intervened.

I wonder how Happy Feet got so terribly lost?  Perhaps a giant wave came to his happy home and swept him quickly away from his family and his friends.  Maybe a predator threatened the penguin colony, and they split up and scattered in order to flee.  Perhaps Happy Feet had been playing hide and go seek with the other penguins and simply went too far, lost his bearings, and never heard his friends call "Ollie Ollie Oxen Free!" 

Or he could have deliberately gone off in an adolescent pout because his brother got more fish for dinner than he did.

However Happy Feet became separated from his home and family, one thing is reasonably certain.

There's probably someone back home who really misses him.  I suspect Happy Feet feels a little homesick too.

Happy Feet reminds me of myself sometimes.  In my life, New Zealand represents the place I find myself when I am far from God.  Sometimes, like Happy Feet, I don't deliberately plan to wander away, it just happens, little by little.  Sometimes I get so busy with good activities, friends, and doing life that I don't even realize I've wandered away until I find that I can't even remember when I last read my Bible, prayed, or talked with someone about the Lord.

Sometimes, maybe like Happy Feet, a giant wave crashes over me and pushes me far from home.  Sickness, death, a wayward child or other faith challenge should draw us closer to the Lord, but sometimes we get angry, or hurt, or scared, and we run away.

Sometimes I find myself far from my spiritual home when I rebel against what I know God is calling me to do.  Maybe He has prompted me to extend forgiveness to someone I'd much rather nurse a grudge against.  Perhaps He has called me to give sacrificially, move to another place, or serve in a ministry.  Instead of saying yes, I cross my arms like a two year old and stomp "NO!" as I head in the other direction.  Maybe God has prompted me to share the gospel with someone, or speak God's truth in love, and I resist. Jonah found himself far from home in an unfriendly sea when He refused to obey God and go to Ninevah to tell them about God's love and forgiveness. 

 Happy Feet reminds me of the prodigal son, too.  Far from home, rebelling against a father and a family who loved him, the prodigal son was so hungry that he longed to fill his belly with pods the swine were eating. Realizing his desperate state, the Bible says he "came to himself and said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son."'" (Luke 15:17-19)

If you, like Happy Feet, find yourself in a place you never intended to be, today is the day to begin the journey home.  Whether it's two miles or 2,000, every journey begins with the first step.  If you've allowed busyness, activities, and friends to cause you to wander away from God, go back to where you were when you last experienced His closeness.  Begin again to practice the disciplines of Bible reading, church attendance, and Christian friendship.  You will be surprised to find God right where you left Him. 

If you find yourself far from God because of a tragedy, a loss, or a disappointment, follow the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28, "Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

And if you are far from God because of sin and rebellion, speak the words of the prodigal.  "Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. . ."  You will immediately experience what the prodigal experienced: 

"But when he (the son) was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. . .  he said, 'Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.  And bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!'" (Luke 20-24)

Happy Feet may never make it back home again.  You and I, however, can always go back to a Father who longs to welcome us home.  The journey begins with the first step.  Will you take it?

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1 comment:

  1. Anonymous1:52 PM

    Thank you for the reminder of how quickly I can get far away from God without even meaning to go in that direction.


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