The Fall And Rise Of A Prodigal Son
by Chris Murphy
The bulk of my adult life has been consumed with full time Christian ministry. Born again at age 12, surrendered to the call to ministry one year later, my adolescent and pubescent years were focused on achieving what I considered to be the divine purpose for my existence; to serve my King as one of his shepherds. By age 21, I had achieved this goal and with the zeal and energy that can only come from youthful inexperience, I entered into the world of Christian ministry with my eyes wide shut.
Twenty years and several churches later, I was a dried up, worn out, burned out, bitterly angry shell of that young man. The accumulative scar tissue I bore from two decades of sheep bites and stab wounds (mostly in my back)had so ravaged my heart and mind that by the time I finally left the pulpit I did so with the solemn vow to never darken the door of another church building for the rest of my natural born life. The rage fueled rebellion I plunged into would have made the prodigal son blush. God help the poor unsuspecting saint that blundered into my path of self destruction; especially those who were foolish enough to announce their affiliation with God and his church.
God let me destroy myself for three long, excruciatingly miserable years. All the while I blamed "them" for my pain and God Himself for leaving and forsaking me in my most vulnerable hours of need. Despite my sincere salvation experience at so young an age, I tried my best to live my life as if I had never heard of Jesus Christ. In my bitterness, I reasoned I had wasted my youth chasing antiquated superstitions and ancient traditions that had no bearing in reality. In His grace and wisdom, God allowed me to take my heart and life back from Him and silently watched as one of his children did his best to completely destroy himself.
When He finally did speak to me again, I was at the end of my rope. My wife was filing for divorce, my children were frightened of me and I was staring at a future with no compass, no rudder and absolutely no idea what I was going to do. I have no words to describe that level of misery. My depression was so overpowering that suicide had become my only option. The truth was, I was at the stage of planning out the method of my death and setting that plan into motion.
Early in the morning of what would have undoubtedly been the last Sunday of my life I woke up with the strongest compelling to open my Bible that I have EVER had in my life. I reluctantly and angrily found myself sitting alone at my kitchen table at 3:00 in the morning with my closed Bible sitting in front of me (I don't ever remember how I found the thing). I flopped the book open and decided I would read whatever page it fell open to. If God was the one who had dragged me out of bed to read the thing, He'd have to guide the pages to wherever He wanted them to fall.
The bible opened to Lamentations chapter 1. When I saw which book it opened to I figured I was safe from any divine revelations about my situation since I wasn't a Jewish city held in captivity by Babylon. Armed with that attitude I proceeded to read the first chapter of Lamentations. When I came to verse 16 my jaw dropped and the tears came despite my best efforts.
In that moment, I understood. I wasn't where I was because of 'THEM' or God's failure to protect me. I was there because of me. I had allowed my heart to be hardened. I had let "them" rob me of my joy. I let "them" divorce me from my relationship with God. I had done this, not "them". By the time God finished revealing these truths with me, I was on the floor in a literal pool of my own tears.
That Sunday morning I joined the church my wife had been attending alone with our children. This coming Sunday, February 19, 2012 will be the first anniversary of that seminal Sunday morning. In this one year, God has restored my joy, he has restored my relationship with my wife and children, He has restored my love for Him and His people and as of January 2012, he has restored me to His ministry.
I have no words to describe what God has done. I've been born again, again. God is more real to me today than He ever was during my 20+ years of ministry. Even as I write this, I am in tears, only this time, the tears are of joy. Instead of serving like a Martha, God has shown me how to serve Him like Mary and I can certainly attest that it is indeed the "good part" (Luke 10:42)...