I was jogging over a small bridge, lost in a mental collage of prayers and daydreams on that warm spring day when the words clearly broke through my reverie. “You know, Sondra, when the prodigal son came home, he didn’t bring the pigs with him.”
I continued running, but inside me everything stopped. Unnerved and also a bit amused, I knew I had some decisions to make.
I had happily given my life to Christ about ten years before and for the first couple of years eagerly immersed myself in bible study and prayer, enjoying an experience with God that was almost palpable. Then one day, that tangible presence of God suddenly disappeared.
As the years passed I tried to get that feeling back, but it was no use. Bible study, worship, witnessing, church attendance, and prayer did not bring it back. Slowly, gradually, I began to do those things less and less until eventually I was not attending church at all.
By then, my marriage was also in serious trouble. I tried in my own strength to fix the problem, but I was no match for the seductive women who had come out of the woodwork to take advantage of the situation.
Feeling hopeless, I started going out to bars trying to fill the void as my marriage disintegrated and my deceptive feelings told me God was nowhere to be found. When my marriage of fifteen years ended in divorce, and I was devastated. I started dating, and for a while I could forget the pain. I stayed out all night, but in the morning I felt empty.
I knew I needed to make my way back to God. In my heart I cried to Him, asking Him to come find me because I could not find my way back to Him, and He did just that. After many false starts, I finally made it inside the doors of the church and slipped into the back row, just as the music began to play. Suddenly, everything in me came alive, a sense of relief washed over me, and I knew I was home.
The numb places inside me revived, and I knew on a deep level that God had always been there, even though I was temporarily blinded to that fact. The journey back from that pigpen was difficult because of all the junk I had brought into my life, but my Heavenly Father lovingly came alongside, gently confronting my double life with humor and encouragement, like the wisecrack about the prodigal son.
As I gave up the boyfriends and the nightlife and resumed my routine of daily bible reading and prayer, the Lord began to show me His plan for my restoration. One day, I came upon Isaiah 54. I sat stunned as the words on the page came alive and spoke specific to my particular situation.
The words resonated inside me like a bass drum. I was that wife who married young only to be rejected (v. 6). For a time I did feel that God abandoned me and hid His face from me (vv. 7-8). My life had been riddled with fear and shame for as long as I could remember (v. 4). I had been lashed by storms and not comforted (v. 11), beginning with childhood abuse, being a socially awkward wallflower throughout grade school, dropping out of high school, and then enduring a marriage where I was constantly ignored and ultimately rejected.
As the Lord showed me a mirror of my past on the pages of His book, it forced me to also believe and trust in His intentions for my future also written there. He is filled with love and compassion for me (vv. 8-10). He wants me to enlarge the place of my tents in expectation of all that is coming (v. 2). He plans to rebuild my life with strength and beauty (vv. 11-12). His promises extend not only to me but to my family (vv. 3, 13). So for me, there are no more excuses for feeling sorry for myself, dreading the future, or worrying about my children.
God has been using Isaiah 54 as the bulwark for rebuilding my life over the past 20 years, and I use these passages as a foundation for sharing His restorative plan with others who may have felt used, abused, abandoned, or rejected. When it comes to broken lives, God truly is in the renovation business.