On returning from a long trip home from Colorado, my daily devotions focused on how God delivers in spite of our circumstances, how God intervenes on our behalf. Even when we feel helpless, we need to have faith that God is in control. He will direct His angels to guard us in all of our ways (Psalm 91).

Well, I hit some major storms, winds, angry clouds, horrendous truck traffic on two-lane roads and torrential rain. My large collie sought to join me between the two bucket seats, attempting to get in my lap in spite of my elbowing. The huge semi tailgating my Honda Fit unnerved her. Then, with over 300 miles to travel, my oil light went on.

Okay! Deep breath!

Yes, I prayed. But human doubt crept in, and I did not feel protected. With age comes insecurity, even though we have wonderful scriptural examples of heroes and heroines who withstood danger.

But as I traveled, I began to ruminate on the dilemma of self-control. I did want to be in control of the situation, especially as I fought the wheel to keep my little car from blowing off the road. I felt helpless with my flashers going and the semi behind me, paying no heed to back off as I was sandwiched between two of them. So I prayed, “God, surround me with your angels. I am out of control of this situation.”

Luke chapter 15 tells the story of the prodigal, or wayward, son. He wanted full control. As a young man, he demanded his inheritance from his father and ended up squandering it in loose living. He wanted his freedom without constraints.

Perhaps we find his determinism fascinating – like a certain person we may know. Some may feel a bit of sympathy for his plight, when he found himself in dire straits and plunged into darkness, living among the swine.

Then again, we may see ourselves in this story, in our own need to be in control. We may have to admit, “That’s me.” We aren’t thrilled to hear this story in the first person.

Our need to control comes in many ways. We want our rights. I have a “right” to have an abortion if the situation I find myself in is inconvenient. I have the “right” to do what I want with a gun, in spite of the 40,000 deaths from gun violence each year in the U.S. Think of the untold wonderful children who could be born or the little 5-year-olds with their baby teeth gunned down at Sandy Hook.

As one commentator wrote, “Shouldn’t those who value every heartbeat be absolutely zealous about protecting children from losing that heartbeat to a gun?”

We confuse “rights” with doing the right thing. This “right” business permeates our culture. We could find so many examples.

Now let’s look at the folks who surrounded Jesus, to whom he spoke this parable of the wayward son. That’s you and me. We are lost and broken. Many times we find ourselves far from home.

And are we not like that Canaanite woman who desired nothing from Jesus but the crumbs that fall from the Lord’s table? Are we not warned like the rich young ruler, who could not give up his riches and went away unbelieving?

This is you, and this is me; and there is our Father, always waiting for us to come home.

Our Father will always keep us in his thoughts. Our God will both watch and wait for us, over and over. Every misstep we make gives Him great pain. When we realize this “God moment,” we will run to him.

We will once again ask for forgiveness and fully realize the safety of His arms – arms that desire to receive us and keep us truly at home.

No matter what the circumstances, God is in control. This is where we experience true freedom – to be up and about in our Father’s house with all the blessings that bestows.

Pastor Carole Shelby is a retired Lutheran (LCMC) pastor and a member of the Park Rapids Ministerial Association.