There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.' So he got up and went to his father. "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'
But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate. Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.' The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!' 'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' "
I have the honor of being a Sunday School teacher for preschool children. I share the post with a friend, Dawn, and she and I muddle through this experience, both being in our first year as teachers. I know, I have been teaching for years, but my area of teaching has always been teenagers. This is a whole new interesting, wonderful ballgame!
I had to try to make this story make sense to 4 year olds. Today, I reviewed the story of the prodigal son. What 4 year old can understand "interitance" "estate" and "squandered" and "property" and "prostitutes" and "famine" and "destitute"? I watered it waaaayyyy down, so the story went like this:
Once there was a man with 2 boys. When parents or grandparents die and go to heaven, sometimes they have some leftover money and they leave it to their kids. Well, one of the boys didn't want to wait until his dad died, so said, "I want my money now". His dad gave it to him. His brother didn't ask for his money right now. The boy who had gotten his money left his house and spent all of his money on food and clothes and parties until his money was all gone. He became hungry so he had to go to work for a pig farmer. He was so hungry, he wanted to eat the leftover pig food. He thought about his dad's farm workers and he thought that they had more food than he did, and a place to stay, so he decided to go back home and ask his Dad to take him back. When his Dad saw him coming down the road, he yelled at his workers to make a big meal and bring him a robe and sandles and a beautiful ring. The older brother was mad because he had stayed home like a good son and worked next to his father and the father had not had any big parties for him or given him a beautiful ring. The father said I have always given you what you need and everything I have I have shared with you, but your brother was lost and now he is back home again, so we are having a party! No matter what he has done, I love him.
We went on to each draw a picture of something we have done that we are sorry for or something we have done that is bad. After finishing the task, I asked each student to take their drawing, ball it up and throw it in the garbage....just like the pig slop...just like what God does to our mistakes once we ask his forgiveness. They become like the garbage, gone forever! No more worries!
Then, to relate this father to our heavenly father...have you ever strayed? Have you ever squandered? Have you ever left your father to live a life you thought was greater than the one you had? Have you ever wasted your gifts, your talents, your wealth? Guess what? Your heavenly father is just waiting for the moment you return to Him. He will welcome you with open arms and celebrate your return. He loves you so much that he will take you back. He will welcome you back and He will love you just as much as before. Maybe more! He says, "No matter what you have done, I love you". Our memory verse: "Great is His love for Us". I am learning right along with my 4 year olds. They are my little blessings, and I am so very blessed!