Melissa grew up in a wealthy home. There was no getting around it. Over the years, she had every privilege that a child could imagine. Her father adored her and her older, more responsible sister was nearby even though they weren’t extremely close. There is no doubt she was pampered. Her parents didn’t set out to do it. It just happened.
How could it not? They had help in the house. She didn’t have to do such menial things as make her bed or wash dishes. Even the meals were cooked for the family by hired help. If she wanted anything, she only had to open her mouth and ask, and it was hers.
When Melissa was 12 and her sister 16, her mother became ill with a serious lung disease. After a year and a half of trekking to specialists, her parents realized there was nothing more that could be done to save her life. Six months later, Melissa’s world crashed when her mother died. No one warned her that her mother was dying and she wasn’t aware enough to catch the clues as her mother gasped for air day after day, even on oxygen. So her death caught this self-focused child completely by surprise.
For the rest of her family, it was almost a relief to see her mom out of the misery of struggling for breath. The shock of her mother’s death affected all of Melissa’s life. All she knew now was that her mother was dead. It was the first time anything in her world had ever gone wrong. She went a little crazy.
Surprisingly, the family members closest to her were caught unexpectedly by her response. Here was a 14 year old girl who had experienced hardship for the first time in her life. She had no idea how to deal with it and the one person who could have advised her was gone! Her dad managed his grief by working harder in his business. He had no idea how to comfort his young daughter.
Her older sister, Tasha was no help. She was heading off to college. She was looking forward to the future and getting away from this sad place. She had plans to continue in the family business and wanted a degree in business so she could contribute more to continuing in that direction. Besides, the girls couldn’t have been more different. Tasha was very responsible and practical. She knew how to look at spread sheets and make sense of them.
Melissa, on the other hand, did not have a practical bone in her body. She was much more talented in the arts and drama. Her dramatic skills showed particularly well when she didn’t get her way. At times, she tantrumed, But often, she used her abilities to manipulate her dad to get her way. She was very smooth at it. He rarely even knew what was happening.
As the years of her high school went by, Melissa continued to get into more and more trouble. Her grades plummeted. Her father tried all he knew to get her behavior and attitude under control, but nothing helped. She seemed to grow angrier each day. She was unable to appreciate the privileges she had or enjoy the blessings of her life. All she saw was how awful many of her circumstances were. He took her for counseling as well. Nothing seemed to help.
Meanwhile, her sister, Sasha continued through her college years completing her coursework with many honors. In the summers, she either took courses abroad or worked in the business with her dad. She obviously had the skills needed to benefit his business. The day came for Sasha to return home after graduation and start working. Her dad enjoyed the camaraderie of working with her and discussing aspects of the business with her. He was pleased to have her home.
About the same time, Melissa was supposed to graduate from high school. However, her grades were too low, so about March before graduation, after her teachers had talked to her dad, she made a deal with him.
“Let me take my GED and finish high school that way. I can’t graduate with my glass. Let me cut my losses. Then I’ll work in the business for you at entry level.” Her dad agreed, shaking his head as he thought of all the money he had spent on her private education!
“But you will have to follow the rules of the job when you start at that level.” said her dad. “You won’t get special privileges as my daughter.”
She agreed. She had no awareness of what a life with no special privileges even meant!
She passed the GED and started her job. Unfortunately, she had never experienced life without special privileges. She did not go to work on time. She did not follow the rules. She did not think the rules were for her. Her dad said he couldn’t make an exception for her. She would have to find another job or go to junior college and get good grades before she could go to a regular college.
She refused. She refused to do any of the things he required. She did not get another job. She did not go to junior college. She just stayed in bed day after day and slept.
One day, her dad met her for lunch. He told her that things were going to have to change. She couldn’t continue the way she was going. He loved her, but it wasn’t good for her to be living the way she was. She became very angry.
She said to her dad, “I wish you were dead! In fact, why don’t you give me my part of the inheritance I have coming. Then I will leave and make my life somewhere else!”
Her dad decided to do give her the money she wanted. Sadly, he realized she might have to learn many life lessons the hard way. Melissa packed her bags and left. She did not thank her dad for all he had done for her up to that point. She was not appreciative. She just silently walked out the door with her suitcases and money.
Her dad sobbed. He hated to see her go, especially in the way she left! He was also worried for her safety.
So Melissa headed out on her own with lots of money. She had no idea how to manage it…and didn’t. She was a spender. She partied. She made lots of friends. But one day, she realized her money was running out. What was she going to do? Where would she live? What would she eat? She had not planned ahead by getting training for a well-paying job.
As time went on, she was eating less. She learned to waitress and at least get one decent meal a day. As time went on, she realized she was too desperate for money and she took up prostitution. The money was better, but it was much harder on her spirit.
One New Year’s Day, she was thinking to herself, “This is not a good life. In fact, this is awful! Now that I have a son, I need to think about how I will raise him! My dad would be so upset if he knew this was how I was wasting my life. Why did I let my anger and arrogance get me into this mess? I need to go home and apologize to my dad. I had no idea what a wonderful life I had. I had so many privileges that I wasted. If he will let me work in his house as a maid, I would be better off than living like this! I miss him. I miss seeing my sister and knowing how my family is. I want my son to know my family.” So she took the last of her money and headed home.
Every evening after work, her dad had a habit of sitting at his window as he had a last drink, watching to see if his daughter was coming home. This habit had gone on for 10 long years. That January 5, was no exception. As he looked down the road, he thought he saw a woman with a familiar walk. As she got closer, he was sure of it. She carried one tattered suitcase and a baby. He opened the door before she got to it and looked closer. He was pretty sure it was his Melissa! He ran to her and hugged her!
“Melissa, you’re home. Welcome! You were dead, now you are alive! We are going to have a welcome home party!”
“Wait Dad…” She tried to get the words out to her dad to tell him of her sorrow over leaving and her desire to return as one of his maids.
He cut her off! “You are my daughter and this is my grandson.” He took her to her room where he had a luxurious bathrobe for her. He showed her the beautiful bathroom where she could get a warm bath while supper was prepared for them and they could talk over supper.
“Welcome home my dear Melissa! I’m so glad you’re home.” He hugged her, wrapping her in his strong embrace. “Welcome home. We will work out the details later. For now, let’s eat and plan the welcome home party.”
Ten years had passed since Melissa left. She looked older than someone in her late 20’s. It had been a hard 10 years. She had learned a lot of hard lessons. Humility had only been one of them.
Later this week, i’ll tell you the rest of the story.Then you can decide if you see yourself in Melissa or Tasha.
cf. Luke 15:11-24