Posts Tagged ‘prodigal’

unfairHow many times have I heard my children complain about a decision of mine not being fair? No matter that last year or month or week, a similar decision probably benefited the complainer, but it’s all about the moment and it’s all about them. It’s unfair today. I can even remember counting Christmas presents when they were little to be sure the numbers came out even (I created my own monster). To what end? But am I any different when it comes to the things of God?

The older brother got really angry and refused to come inside, so his father came out and pleaded with him to join the celebration. But he argued back, “Listen, all these years I’ve worked hard for you. I’ve never disobeyed one of your orders. But how many times have you even given me a little goat to roast for a party with my friends? Not once! This is not fair!  [Luke 15:28-29, The Voice translation]

I am questioning God’s judgment all the time. Whenever I look around and compare myself and my situation to those around me, I am judging God’s direction. When I get frustrated with my children, my marriage, my body,  my aging, and more, I am actually saying my life could be better if only. . . !

But would it really? They say people tend to re-create their negative circumstances even when given a fresh start. Women divorce to get a better husband and find the next one equally unbearable. Running away from what is does nothing but delay the learning.

I am who I am. I have many gifts and I have many flaws. I am a follower of One God. And I have said over and over again that I trust that God to protect me and guide me. That journey will never look like anyone else’s journey.

Fairness is relative. When my children accuse me of being unfair, I want to scream! Everything I do for them and with them, is for their good, for love, for a future. Circumstances will never appear particularly fair. One day, they will learn that lesson too.

God forgive me for my own childish tantrums.

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distanthomeI 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 servants.’ [Luke 5:18-19]

Before the “prodigal” son could return home, he had to see himself and his situation. This is that epiphany moment when everything that has been fuzzy is clear, when the justifications no longer work, when the excuses are exposed as lame, when truth wins. And in that moment, there is a choice, to continue along the same path or turn around.

It’s hard to turn around because that journey may mean going over the same ground traveled once before: in essence, a review of those older choices. The road appears even longer on the way back. Did I really do that? Did I really say that? Did I really come this far?

And that is the question, isn’t it? Did I really?

It’s too easy to lose sight of what is happening on that “road to perdition.” What might have appalled the first time becomes common place. The shock wears off and soon, circumstances become the norm.

Like the story of the frog who drowns in the pot of water, slowly heating up.

Of course, not every return is from the pit of hell (although sometimes, it’s clearer, what needs to happen next). Some returns are closer at hand. Sometimes, it’s just a prayer life that has gotten bland and superficial, where more time is spent at a meal prayer than at the feet of Christ. Sometimes, it’s a type of laziness, a depression that is not clinical, but woos all the same: to lie there in the curve of the sheets or the indent of the couch, to cuddle into the hollow of the chair.

Home in Christ is not passive by nature. When it is, something is amiss. Why have I allowed it to become so wishy-washy? Why has my faith become so tame, so compliant? So lacking in joy and transformative power? It’s not bad or evil, my situation. I mean, I’m not wallowing in pig slime or sin. I’m boring today.

I’m a boring believer. Sluggish. It’s my own miniature of the “dark night of the soul.” I don’t believe God or the Presence is missing. Of course. It is I who have gone somewhat AWOL. Perhaps it was the busy few days, the travel, the change in schedule that has plunged me into this lassitude. Or, it’s the pesky virus that hangs on to my head and sinuses, who drives me to sleep. In any case, I feel prodigal and dissipated by it.

So, what to do?

Call it for what it is. That’s first. Then I can turn around. Maybe tomorrow.

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From Holy Card Heaven online Collection

The Israelites were set to enter the promised land when Moses gave one last sermon (since he was not going with them) in which he warned them of the slow falling away that would probably happen. And yet, he also promised a God way to stop the downward spiral.

Deuteronomy 4:29
But if from there [Canaan] you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.

So many times, I have not recognized my own descent into old habits and ways.

How often have I successfully achieved my weight loss goal and then, slowly crept right back up again to the old weight or worse, a higher weight. I lose my tenaciousness after the goal is met. I stop paying attention. I listen to the wrong inner voice that gives me permission, “just this once” or “a little won’t hurt.”

But this same thing happens spiritually. When I experience those divine highs, it is often easy to lose sight of the way that got me there.

God is not the one who is far away. I am the one who turned aside. I lose my focus and become engaged in something along the side of the road. And soon, I am heading down a side path, picking up crumbs along the way, curious where it will lead even, but ultimately I end up in some brambles and the trail that looked so clear at first, is indiscernible.

At that point, what to do? I look up and see I am in uncharted woods. How do I seek God at that point “with all my heart?” What does that look like? When I am in chaos or depressed or caught up in a situation or relationship that is overwhelming, what is next?

That is the moment in which I must choose how to give up. But which kind? Will I give up to the moment and keep doing what I’ve been doing? Will I say, “what’s the point of trying anymore?” Will I eat the next ten pounds in resignation? Will I stay in an abusive situation? Or is there a different way to give up?

Seeking God with the whole heart and soul is a type of submission, a giving in, a giving up to a higher authority. It’s confessing my inability to fix, solve, or extricate myself from the moment.

This is the most dangerous juncture. This is the prayer point that can change everything — or not.

Each time I reach this point, the fear is almost overwhelming. If I really give this up to God, what will my life be like? Will I be the same person? What if I have to become a missionary and go to Africa or Uzbekistan or something like that? Will I have to sell everything and live with the poor in India? If I give God my heart and soul, will I turn into some right-wing Bible-thumping narrow-minded extremist?

Goofy, right? I’m just saying, that’s how my mind careens when I’m faced with true change. But, of course, it’s not like that at all. When I do pray in this letting go way, when I confess my weaknesses and my self-destructive choices, when I hand my “out-of-control” to God, slowly and methodically, the downward slide stops. Breath. And a new way is illuminated, sometimes dimly, sometimes in bright neon. But God’s promise is a faithful one.

Seeking God with my whole heart and soul is a prayer of confession and discovery. Like the prodigal son [Luke 15:11-31], my eyes are opened, and I am able to start the walk home, one foot after another. I become the small child who is learning how to walk, each step I take toward the arms of grace is a victory. And the angels rejoice.

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Wood Engraving by Gwen Raverat

Whenever the word inheritance comes up in scripture, my mind vaults to the story of the prodigal son [Luke 15] who is given and subsequently wastes his birthright share in “wild living.” But an everlasting inheritance can’t be expended, nor can it be given ahead of time, or can it?

Hebrews 9:15a
[Christ, the Messiah] is therefore the Negotiator and Mediator of an [entirely] new agreement (testament, covenant), so that those who are called and offered it may receive the fulfillment of the promised everlasting inheritance. . .

So many Christian people are quite focused on the heavenly bequest and even use the promise as an appetizer to entice others into becoming followers of Christ. It sounds a little like the lottery, as though they are saying, if nothing else works out down here on Earth, at least we know we’ll have entry through the pearly gates and streets paved with gold; at last, a life of leisure with no pain, no worries, and no kids (only kidding on that last one).

But is that the point? Are we supposed to be toughing it out here because we can count on this inheritance later? This would be like our own children making no efforts now and simply waiting around until the parents kick off and the 401K’s are distributed.

I think the everlasting inheritance supersedes time. Just as there is no time in God’s world, our heritage is not limited to our death and subsequent afterlife. Instead, it was precluded by Christ’s death and the distribution included the Holy Spirit who lives in and among us now.

You want to spice up the Four Spiritual Laws or your personal proselytizing, then start including the wonder of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us now, who partners with us in this life, who draws us into being better Humans, who stimulates our internal compass toward those in need, to pricks our conscience, and teaches us to love others by loving us.

This is the everlasting inheritance that is here today.

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