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A Purer Heart, Thanks to a Prodigal
One woman's powerful story led me to ask some honest, soul-searching questions.


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A heart that's well is the greatest gift a leader can give to those he or she leads. A heart that's well is the greatest gift you can give your family, too. Not the kind that comes from cardio exercise, although strong heart muscles are good. Rather, the type referred to in the Bible as a pure heart.

What happens, though, when you know your heart falls short of pure?

I admit that mine does.

And when I understand where I miss the mark, where the dark spots exist, then I can do something about it. To become a better leader. To become a better parent and spouse. A stronger Christ-follower. And honor God.

So can you. While many self-examining options exist, I suggest a book I recently finished.

This independently published book, Run the Other Way, reads as a modern-day prodigal son story. In this case, a prodigal daughter. The author, Jan Smith, chronicles her journey through an affair with a married man and into God's never-ending presence and loving embrace.

Jan's story comes from the wayward one's perspective. Recall the Bible story for a moment. Ever wonder what the son's life looked like right before the pig sty, and the thoughts he used to justify it? What the slop/pods tasted like or what the squeeze from sin's grip felt like? If the prodigal son had kept a journal, imagine what we would read.

Fortunately, the prodigal daughter did keep a journal. In Run the Other Way, readers hear about the highlights, lowlights, and darkness in a story whispered from the labored breath of someone trying to run through life hitched to a two-ton sin load and doesn't know it. Or care. How frustrating to watch.

The logic to justify and perpetuate her choices, simultaneously authentic and distorted, shows how sin can usher itself into anybody's life.

The book's final pages paint a vivid picture of undeserved forgiveness that causes me to question my typically low willingness to offer grace whenever wronged.

The words "affair with a married man" likely caught your eye, so let's chat for a moment. Fear not, this book contains no sordid scenes that make a reader blush. And I blush quite easily.

No need to worry about any assault on morality, either. The author makes no effort to convince readers that her actions are acceptable. At one point, she even says: "It's amazing to me how sin perpetuates its own neediness—the need to keep lying, the need to turn away from God in shame, the need to continue living in deceit, the need to deny your very sinfulness, the need for isolation, and on and on" (page 152).

As I read, there were many times I wanted to scream, "Wake up, Jan!"

After extinguishing my flames of righteous indignation toward the author, I began to wonder if anything clearly wrong exists in my life that somehow I've justified. Honestly, I find it easy to judge someone else's sin—like Jan's. But do I feel the same way toward my own sin? Sure, the parts of my life that everyone can see appear fine. Corners exist, though, which create room for darkness. Jan's story shows how sin can cause a person to re-orient his or her life in a way that allows transgressions to flourish. She admitted her transgressions with great clarity. Am I willing to do the same, even in solitude with God?

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Topics:Children, Confession, Conflict, Family, Leadership, Repentance, Sin, Spiritual Warfare
Filters:Children's ministry, Children's pastor, Christian education, Family ministry, Sunday school
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