I was recently studying the parable of the prodigal son (in Luke 15:11-32), and it caused me to think of Rembrandt’s painting depicting the beautiful embrace of the father as his wayward son returned home.

I wonder what voices must have been going through the son’s mind as he journeyed home. I can only imagine the shame he must have felt having not only squandered away half his father’s estate, but also the shame from the disrespect and hurt he must have caused his father by leaving.

Most of us battle at some level with the different voices in our heads, sometimes feeling as if our worth as a human is constantly on trial. We hear continuous internal testimony from these voices, some for us and some against us, and we try to navigate our way through what’s true and what isn’t.

One of our staff members, Sue Bishop, recently got the opportunity to help a little 6-year-old boy at our partner Summerhill Community Ministries wrestle with the voices in his head.

She was troubled when he said to her, “I am stupid,” after being teased by another little girl. She asked, “Well, are you stupid? Because I don’t think so. In fact, I think you are very smart! You are my ‘smartest boy in the class.’” At that, Sue said, he brightened up and he had been “acting smart” ever since.

But the little girl teased this little boy again a week later. When Sue saw it, she leaned over to the little boy and said, “Well, you know you are smart, so when someone says that you are stupid, just say in your head, ‘I am not stupid, I am smart,’ and don’t worry about what they are saying.”

Twenty minutes later, the little girl repeated her taunt. But the little boy looked at Sue with an awesome smile and said, “I said it in my head! I am not stupid!” Please pray the Lord would help this little boy remember this message for a lifetime.

I encourage you today to think about (and possibly re-think) the messages you hear—and also the ones you give out. The story of the prodigal son teaches us, among many things, that what we all want most in our hearts is to be known and loved unconditionally. We want to be hugged the way Rembrandt’s painting depicts the father embracing his once-lost son. We don’t have to wrestle with the voices anymore or worry about the outcome of the internal trial. The father, the judge, has already given the verdict. Regardless of the testimony against us, regardless of our guilt, He waits with open arms, offering the greatest embrace and fulfilling our heart’s greatest desire, to be known and loved unconditionally.

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