Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Prodigal

Our pastor has been preaching the past 2 weeks on the parable of the Prodigal Son. I can't say I have "enjoyed" it because the series has brought much conviction to my life. I can't seem to get it out of my head. And, frankly, I am at a place in which I feel a little annoyed at all the conviction. (Just keepin' it real, folks.) But, I don't ever want to knowingly ignore something the Lord is trying to teach me- even when it hurts. So, I feel the need to work it out a little here on "paper". I love how an old story that I have heard so many times can become new as something else is revealed that I never noticed before. The Lord's Word is so rich.

In all the years that I have read the story of the Prodigal Son, I have always noticed the parallels to our relationship to the Lord. We are the prodigal, He is the father. We recognize our need for Him. He, in His goodness and faithfulness and unconditional love, runs to us. He throws a party when another child willingly enters His kingdom. It's a great story. You can read it here in Luke.

Last week, the focus was on the role of the father. The father allowed the son to live as he chose. He did not heap guilt on the son for his choices. He gave his son the inheritance he asked for even though it brought much shame to his house in the eyes of the world. The father was willing to be undignified in front of others by running to greet his son. And, the father sees his son's heart upon his return. He never focused on his words or actions. He gave the son his best and celebrated. And the part that I haven't been able to get out of my mind...he fattened a calf in expectation that the son would return. This was when it really hit home. In some relationships in my life, I am the father. Not, The Father, but the father. Others have squandered my love for them. And how do I react? I say that I am expecting their return and that I will go to them in unconditional love. But, frankly, I expect that if I were to run to them today, I would bring some words of guilt and condemnation along with me. I certainly have not been "fattening a calf" in my expectation. So, while I may be the father in my role, I am certainly not the father in my actions.

And this week, the focus was on the older brother. I won't lie, when the pastor began, I didn't even want to hear what he had to say about this. I knew enough about the story to know that the brother was bitter and angry. And honestly, I am bitter and angry about some things in my life. The brother harbored unforgiveness in his heart toward his younger brother. The older brother not only harbored bitter feelings toward his brother, but also toward the father for his unconditional love. The brother was so focused on the work he did for his father's house, that he had lost sight of why it was important (the relationship). And, he was angry because his brother didn't deserve the attention he was getting. He hadn't earned it. He had squandered his father's riches and brought disgrace. Shouldn't he pay at least a little for that? And, more than anything, the brother was pouting and having a pity party because it was unfair that he had made the right choice and he didn't even get a goat for his own celebration. Yes, indeed, I can relate to the brother. And, then it was clear. In those same relationships, I am actually the brother. I say that I want the "lost one" to come home, but when I see them coming, I am bitter and angry and filled with feelings of injustice. I am unwilling to go out and greet them. I want them to have to make the walk alone as others watch. I want them to feel the weight of their choices. I feel as though I often make the better choice and then am jealous when I do not receive a party in my honor. For the first time, I can see deep into my heart. Inside I find some bitterness, unforgiveness, pride and a little bit of self-righteousness. Eeeww. As I type all this out, I am embarrassed by my attitude. I am tempted to delete those last few sentences, because it reveals a part of my heart that is ugly. A part that, frankly, I don't want others to know exists. But, I know that the Lord honors our efforts when we are willing to be honest and vulnerable. I want to change it. I want to cleanse the ugly parts of my attitude. The hope is knowing that God never puts me in a box. He always offers a better way. The brother was just as lost as the prodigal. And when he didn't come in to the party, the father came out to his son. The father did not get a bad attitude toward the older brother and ignore his antics. The good news is that God has not written me off just because I have an ugly attitude. He has an entire inheritance that already belongs to me because I am His. I have been failing to recognize the privileges I have as a daughter to the King. I don't need a party or fattened calf to celebrate. Each and everyday I get to live out the blessings of the Father's love. And, most importantly, he reveals His Word to show me the better way.

So, today, even though I have been living like the brother, I am striving to act like the father. And, I am confident in His ability to show me the way.

I am already anticipating the lesson in which my role as the prodigal becomes more clear.
And who knows which other roles we will learn about. Maybe the fattened calf...I am sure there is some spiritual lesson there to be had.