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Building A Better Road After Covid

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Early on in my writing career, I had a writing mentor in Hollywood who told me that writers tend to write about the same thing over and over and over. She encouraged me to discover which story archetype best embodied my beliefs and build my stories from there.  She said it would save me time from trying to re-invent the wheel, and it would always give me a core theme to lean on.

 It was genius advice. But at the time, a bit over my novice head. And quite honestly, I was determined that MY storytelling was going to be wholly original.

 Of course, it’s not. And, of course, she was right.

 It didn’t take me long to realize that the story I tell over and over and over is that of the Prodigal Son. I love this story so much. I’ve told it as a thriller, a mystery, an historical drama, a children’s book, and now an inspirational romance.  Even after years of noodling on this story, I still find it holds fresh meat for me to chew on…. especially after the epic year 2020 left us all reeling!

If you are looking for an example of resilience, take a good gander at the parable of the Prodigal Son. The resilience of every family member in this story is noteworthy.

 There’s the older brother, “the good son,” who stays at home with his father. He never rebels like his brother, but he ends up feeling slighted and bitter. Maybe you feel like that brother? You done everything right and along comes a situation that leaves you feeling cheated, unloved, or unappreciated. But before you go sinking into despair, the Father wants you to know, “Hey, I’ve always loved you. I’ve been with you all the time. And all my blessings are yours. So, go ahead, dig into them. See what you can find.” 

 And then there’s the Prodigal Son. The prideful one who took his inheritance and went out to party for a couple years. He blows everything and crawls back begging for forgiveness. That kind of repentance is steeped in strength and courage!

Maybe you feel more like this Son? Life has given us all some very unfair, downright awful things this past 18 months. Maybe you didn’t always have the best attitude or stellar patience through it all? Maybe you’ve been feeing exhausted, alone, ashamed, unworthy, and overwhelmed.

But the good news is that we can turn things around. Right now. We can start over! This is resilient behavior, my friends!

 Let’s not forget Father of the Prodigal Son who, despite everything his son has put him through says, “My son, I love you. Let’s be a family again. Come to the table and feast! Let me feed you and change your heart.”

Maybe you feel like this parent who has endured the months of angst, wondering, worrying, and being frustrated. But guess what? Victory is on its way! Resilient people never give up. The Prodigal Father didn’t. And you won’t either! 

 My first book and film, God Bless the Broken Road, is a total Prodigal Daughter story. And I never realized how prophetic it would become after 2020. AT the time, I didn’t fully realize I was writing a Prodigal Child story until this Facebook Message exchange with an old friend from Phoenix. She had just grabbed a copy of my new book and wanted to let me know what she thought.

 Her: I’m enjoying the book, but I am arguing with Amber (my protagonist) throughout!

Me: Haha! Love it!

Her: It’s been a while since I had this reaction.

Me: That warms my heart.

Her: I have to admit, it’s a love-hate relationship. She ticks me off and I want to stop reading. But at the same time I have to read it to see when she is going to get it and let God work.

Me: So true… she was a tough character to write. She’s very stubborn! Like the prodigal son.

Her: Good way to say it. I probably get mad because I have had to swallow my pride many times in the last year.

 Ah ha! Amber is a prodigal daughter. I had done it again… without realizing it! Here’s what happens to Amber… (I promise, no spoilers!)

 Amber Hill is a young war widow who has suffered the loss of her husband, Darren, in Afghanistan and is now raising their young daughter, Bree. Two years later, Amber finds her life spiraling down into depression and doubt. Much like the Prodigal Son, Amber turns her back on God, her church family, and her faith and insists on doing things her way. (Haven’t we all felt some of these things during Covid? I know I have!)

 Over the course of the story many people try to come to her aid– her friends, the pastor and his wife, her boss, and her mother-in-law. Her heart begins to thaw a little when she meets a new friend and race car driver, Cody, who starts to awaken her spirit again. But then she soon determines it’s too dangerous to get close to him. He might die in a car crash. She can’t take that.

 Just as Amber’s life hits rock bottom, she experiences a surprising twist in the road when Private Nelson, a war veteran from Darren’s unit, reveals something to Amber that helps her see that her road is not as broken as she thinks it is. Like the Prodigal Son, she returns to God her Father and begs him to forgive her. Amber finds that God is quick to restore the tears she has shed, the loss she has experienced, and the bad decisions she has made. She is welcomed back into to the “feast table” of her family and community. And her life begins anew. 

 The Prodigal Son story is God’s love story to us. His faithful endurance and persistence to love us will never end…. even if we’ve slipped up or fell off the wagon in some way since Covid. We can come back to Him and restore our lives in a whole, new, and more meaningful way. Just ask. Just be open. Have faith and believe that the best days are yet ahead. Because, they are!

And this is why the Prodigal Son parable is a story I will tell over and over and over.

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