Monday, March 11, 2013

A Father's Love

For as long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed reading and hearing The Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). 

As a young person listening to that story, it seemed to me that the prodigal had the best of two worlds.  He got his inheritance early and was able to spend it on all the worldly pleasures he could find, and then when he had run out of money, he got to come home to a new endowment.  How much better could it get? 
I never identified with the good brother.  Perhaps he had the good life, but it was the dull life of doing day after day the same old thing. 

Of course, those who have actually gone into their own “far country” know that it is not all fun and games.  The fun found more often than not proves to be a false fun.  To prove to ourselves and others that we are having fun, we put on false faces and shout with too much bravado about our grand lives.  We rush from one thing to the next trying to fill our emptiness, only to discover that the emptiness grows.  If we’re fortunate enough to come to our senses and to come home, we discover in the midst of the welcome-home party, that we are scarred.  The father’s forgiveness is a welcome relief.  To know one is restored in spite of his unworthiness is a great joy and a great mercy, but the scars remain.
It is not so grand out in the far country.

Of course the good sons and daughters might well tell us that it is not so good at home either.  Actually, the truly good sons and daughters will tell us that life is grand at home.  The problem with most “good” sons and daughters is that they are good in order to get what they want or “deserve.”  They’re playing the same game as the sibling who ran away.
What is missing for the good and the bad sons and daughters is not material things and/or new experiences.  What is missing is relationship.  We run away from the life for which we were created or we begrudgingly live it because we’ve failed to understand and rejoice in the relationship with the Father.

When we are in relationship with the Father, there is no far country . . . there are no tasks begrudgingly done.  There is life.
As my friend and teacher, Dr. Glenn Hinson, recently reminded me, the parable really isn’t about the prodigal son or the “good” son who stayed home.  It is about the loving Father who never gives up on us, who is forever wooing us into a relationship with Him, and who is forever ready to welcome us home.

When we read parables, we must read more than the story.  We must read the story in the story.  In this parable, the story in the story is that of the loving Father whoever forever claims and loves His children.


Monday, March 4, 2013

All Is Not Right & that Is Okay

Once upon a time, filled with youthful enthusiasm and naiveté, I believed that one day I would finally get life right . . . that my life would be fully on target . . . that I would be the person God intended me to be.

There is nothing like adulthood to take care of youthful enthusiasm and naiveté.  My life is not always on target.  In fact, there are days when I can’t even see the target.  As for being the person God intended me to be, this too, according to the standards of the young man I once was, eludes me.

Realizing this, I marvel that I am not in deep depression and suicidal.  I might be, were it not for one important discovery.  As a youth, not only did I believe that one day I would get all of life right, but I also believed that in doing so all would be right with me and with my world.  Believing the latter has made the journey toward the former almost impossible.  

All is not right with my world, and all the believing and all the faith-having I can muster will not make it so.  Coming to Jesus will give me salvation, but it will not make all things right.  Following Jesus will lead to my becoming more than I could otherwise become, but I will still face difficulty from the normal ravages of life, and I will face other difficulties because of the choice to follow Jesus.

I give thanks that I’ve lived long enough to discover this about myself and about God.  I am a more contented follower of Jesus now that I know I still haven’t got it all together.  I am not content because I haven’t got it all together; I am content in spite of the fact that I haven’t.  

God’s invitation spoken through Isaiah means so much more to me today than it did in my youth.  “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!  Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”  I may not be all God intended me to be, but I am at God’s table.  I am refreshed and nourished.  And, in spite of all I am not, I am God’s child.

How is it possible for me (and folks like me) to miss the target so widely and still be the recipient of God’s grace?  It is possible because God says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.”

All is not right with the world or with me, but that's okay.  I am more than I might ever have been because I heard God’s invitation and I drink and eat at God’s table.