Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Col 3:12–13)
By Stephen W. Hiemstra
We must nurture our walk with the Lord, but control is not in our hands. “Discipleship means adherence to Christ” (Bonhoeffer 1995, 59).
Jesus tells the story of a man with two sons. The younger son came to him one day and asked for his inheritance in cash. He then took the money, left town, and began living in style. This reckless lifestyle did not last long and soon the young man had to get a job. Not being a planner, he had to accept degrading work. As the son’s mind began to wander, he remembered his good life at home and resolved to beg his father to take him back as a household servant. When the father saw that his son was coming, he went out to meet him and wrapped his arms around him. As the son began to apologize for his horrible behavior, his father would hear none of it. He took his son; cleaned him up; got him some new clothes ; and threw a party. Later, when his older brother came home and discovered the party, he became jealous and started behaving badly. But his father reminded him: “celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.” (Luke 15:32)
The story of the Prodigal Son shows a young man going through a series of challenges—transitions—that enabled him to see his father with new eyes and to accept his father’s help . Without these challenges, he would not have been able to bridge the gap between him and his father.
For us, hospital visits often pose such transitions. Hospital visits normally start with a health problem; lead to a confusing period of medical treatment; and end with a return to life outside. The twist is that the health problem itself is often a symptom, not the real cause, of the visit. The real problem may be grief over the death of a family member, unresolved trauma from the past, or a bad lifestyle choice. Because a solution to the real problem remains clouded by denial, many people needlessly die of preventable diseases and treatable ailments.
Clouds also cover our journey of faith. We all deny the need for God’s grace and have nasty stumbling blocks—especially pride, other sins, and our own mortality—that must be removed in order to deliver us from our focus on ourselves. It is only through accepting God’s grace that we are able to take the necessary steps of obedience.
The story of the Prodigal Son assures us that our heavenly Father is anxious to forgive, anxious for us to take steps of obedience, and anxious to bridge the gap that we cannot bridge ourselves.
 As Christians, we share mostly just one thing in common: we are forgiven. It is our heavenly Father who clothes us with: “compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” (Col 3:12) But the clothes are a gift, we did not earn them!
 Turansky and Miller (2013, 4) observe: “Even in Old Testament times, God knew that kids learn best through life experiences.”
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. 1995. The Cost of Discipleship (Orig. pub. 1937). New York: Simon and Schuster.
Turansky, Scott and Joanne Miller. 2013. The Christian Parenting Handbook: 50 Heart-Based Strategies for All the Stages of Your Child’s Life. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.