Intersection Column | Finding My Place in a Familiar Parable
by Liz Johnson
The parable of the lost son as told in Luke 15 isn’t particularly long. In fact, it’s only about 20 verses. Yet it’s found its way into much of our culture, the word prodigal into our common vernacular. We find examples in film and music, theater and art. Even if they don’t know where to find it in the pages of the Bible, I think most Americans have a sense of the story.
Growing up in Sunday school, I heard the parable early and often. And I was taught to see myself in the son who left, the one who turned his back on his family, the one who squandered his inheritance. I was the one who must humble myself and beg for forgiveness.
And that’s true. Most of the time—in the depths of my heart—I am that prodigal. I walk away. I turn my back. I stumble and fall. And all of the time, I need the forgiveness of my Father.
It wasn’t until I became an adult that I began to see glimpses of myself in each of the three main characters of the prodigal son story. Yes, I can be the prodigal. I can also be the older brother—doing what’s right and filled with pride because of it. Bitter that someone else’s sins have been so quickly dismissed with few consequences. Angry that my hard work and seeming righteousness have been overlooked. Trust me when I say this is not a good look on me.
But sometimes I see myself in the role of the father. I’m certainly not always good and righteous like our Heavenly Father. But when I choose forgiveness and mercy, I put on some of His attributes. I’m trying to be more and more like Christ every day, and practicing forgiveness helps me do that.
I had been ruminating on the part I most often play in this parable (and the one I want to embody most), when I started writing The Last Way Home—the second book in a series about the Ross brothers of Victoria by the Sea, Prince Edward Island. In the first book of the series, I set eldest brother Eli up to be the prodigal son. I knew that was coming from the start. He’d left PEI ten years before, turned his back on his family when they needed him most, and pursued a career as a professional hockey player.
His life was grand. Until it wasn’t. Just like the younger son in the parable, Eli squandered his wealth. Then a terrible choice left him disgraced, broke and homeless. His only hope was to go home.
I knew all of that as I began writing this book. I just didn’t realize that some of the characters in the book would take on the other roles so well. I should have known that Mama Potts—mom to the three brothers and co-owner of a pottery shop—would so easily step into the role of forgiver. After all, she doesn’t need to bear a grudge. Her son “was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (Luke 15:32). And should she ever be tempted to withhold her mercy, she needs only to remember how much grace she’s been given.
However, I didn’t anticipate Violet Donaghy—honorary Ross sister—embodying the older brother so well. After almost ten years of Eli’s absence and silence, Violet can’t seem to forgive the man who broke Mama Ross’s heart. She doesn’t want him to be part of her chosen family. She’d been there in Victoria, picking up the pieces of his mess, and she worries that Eli will just break their hearts all over again.
Eli and Violet begin the book at odds, holding onto sins and secrets, but they don’t stay there. That’s one thing I love about Christian fiction—and real life too. We’re not stuck in the place we start. We may be a prodigal or an older brother. We may be foolish or proud, selfish or self-righteous. But we don’t have to stay there. And we don’t have to change ourselves.
We just have to turn to the One who always forgives. He’s the One who gives us robes and rings and hosts a feast in our honor. He sees us where we are and refuses to leave us there.
About the Author
Liz Johnson is the New York Times bestselling author of more than a dozen novels, including Beyond the Tides, the Georgia Coast Romance series, and the Prince Edward Island Dreams series, as well as a New York Times bestselling novella and a handful of short stories. She works in marketing and makes her home in Phoenix, Arizona. Learn more at www.lizjohnsonbooks.com.
About the Book
When Eli Ross left Prince Edward Island to join the NHL, he left a broken family behind. More than a decade later, he's headed home to an uncertain welcome. Violet Donaghy has put everything she had into making Eli's mom's ceramics shop a success, and she's not eager to forgive the man who hurt them all. But when a fire nearly destroys the studio, she'll need all the help she can get to save the business and their summer income.
Did You Know?
Electric vehicles (EVs) are common on the roads of the 21st century, employing the latest technology to match the performance of internal-combustion vehicles (in particular, driving range) while producing zero emissions. Despite their futuristic trappings, did you know EVs actually date to the dawn of the automobile era? (Please open your Bibles to Ecclesiastes 1:9 😊)
The advent of rechargeable batteries in the 1850s made EVs possible. Numerous inventors produced early EVs in the late 1880s and 1890s, including William Morrison whose vehicle was a sensation at the 1893 World’s Fair. This horseless carriage could hold twelve passengers in three bench seats and travel 50 miles before requiring a 12-hour recharge.
By the early 1900s, gas-powered cars were cheaper, faster and could travel farther than their electric counterparts. EVs became a niche product, best suited for short-range vehicles such as milk float delivery trucks in the UK and postwar electric taxis built for crowded Tokyo streets. The Lunar Rover used on three Apollo missions was an EV.
EVs found new life at the beginning of the 21st century as hybrids, cars with both gas and electric motors. The Toyota Prius defined the hybrid with superior gas mileage, quiet operation and distinctive looks at a competitive price. In turn, Tesla Motors, led by Elon Musk, mainstreamed pure EVs powered solely by electric engines. Tesla’s success has prompted legacy carmakers to offer EVs. In 2022, Ford is releasing the Lightning, the EV version of its top-selling F-150 truck.
EVs provide a fascinating ride from the Industrial Revolution to the Digital Age and beyond. What happens when a Christian hero customizes an EV pickup to take on the killing roads of 2038? Find out in The Deliverer by Jason William Karpf.
Why I LOVE My Local Christian Bookstore
“I enjoy every opportunity to be in a bookstore, be it local or across the country. It is always a happy moment walking in anticipating the pleasure of browsing through my favorite sections. I always appreciate the warm welcome from an employee as I enter. Soon I find myself leafing through the pages of the newest books released by my esteemed or new authors. Then I’m off to the newest items in the store to see if there is a gift I might find for a friend or loved one. Thus, shopping in a bookstore is always a treat and a threefold blessing!”