For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. Luke 15:24 (The Parable of the Prodigal Son)
I slid down the slope before I even realized it was slippery. Feet out from under me, I let go of the lamp leaving no light to direct my path. By 19 I knew the language of whores. By 20, the language of drug dealers. And before a sip ever passed my lips legally, I was immersed in a culture fit for sudden death.
Rewind a few adolescent years. I’m 11 with permed hair, a spaced-tooth smile, and a newfound love in Jesus. I served for the Gospel, missioned for the lost, and fellowshipped for self-growth. In my innocence, I beamed faith like a child, giddy with God regardless of my company. When the ‘it’ girl called me a Bible beater in front of my non-believing friends, I tittered, acting to save face while making a mental note that Jesus isn’t cool.
I arrived at high school’s double doors with a double life perfected. Sunday school sweetheart on the Sabbath and two-faced rebel the eve of. Crafty like the serpent, deception became my art.
What little accountability that was left in my life, Satan swallowed when I moved to college. His minions stretched their claws around every remnant of lingering faith and choked me breathless. Grasping for anything to fill the deep, I reached across the chasm and my hands drew back poison.
He took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. (Luke 15:13)
I savored instant fixes to numb my dying flesh – men, alcohol, drugs – self-destruction served like manure on queen’s china. I burned cigarettes, marijuana, opiates, bridges, and soul.
And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. (Luke 15:16)
Every morning I woke up empty. But I never woke up dead. Delusional maybe, but never dead. He could have deluged me in His epic flood but in His infinite mercy, He was not done with this putrid rotting filth. Rather than a forever curse – infectious disease, unwanted pregnancy, or jail sentence – He sent in an army of angels to tear me away from the suffocating miry pit that sucked me near mortal.
Drunk nights spinning and a thought of Jesus flashes by. A heartbeat-skip romance with a boy who insisted no more drugs. A dear loved one destroyed by a drunk driving sentence. His angels pulsed through the community building an arc around me, and my eyes began to flutter open. I was crushed against the ground of landfill boiling, residue and sloppy seconds pressing me down, but I could see the light.
I moved slowly across the bumps and brokenness, but I moved. The layers molted, my past a nightmare still vivid. Steady like the tortoise with humility my guide, I crawled desperately back to the One whose promises never break.
While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. (Luke 15:20)
Arms wide open, He met me, His embrace warmer than I remembered. Like spending an hour too many in bitter wet snow then being wrapped in a blanket fresh from the dryer, His warmth met my frostbitten skin searing it to life, the numbness fading as feeling returned. They say to rest in His embrace. I crumbled.
And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.’ (Luke 15:21-23)
Instead of condemnation, He delivered celebration. Instead of punishment, He prepared a feast. Instead of death, He sacrificed life. And He did it all for a wretch.
He did it all for me.
Today I’m 32. Baby bangs and grey hairs from the gift of three babies. A stained smile that grows brightest in the presence of my adoring husband. A found-new-every-morning love in my Redeemer, Restorer, Rescuer. And a sound so sweetly sung to my soul that is giddy with amazing grace.
Ali Hooper is blessed beyond her wildest dreams. Wife to Matt, mom to Henry, Harper & Greta, and ridiculously a mess before Jesus. She blogs about her blessings and her mess at www.blessedtreehouse.com. You can find her on Facebook or Twitter: alihooper.
While I’ve only met Ali online, I am blessed by her story and her blog. Her redemption could only be the work of a mighty God who loves each and every one of His children.
Thanks for sharing, Ali!