Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Can We Talk?
I was reading Jon's blog today and in the reading it jogged a memory of something that happened a couple years ago. I was going through a particularly rough time and during that time had quite a few "fights" with God. Basically temper tantrums if I am honest.
Glad you asked, sorta! I can't believe I'm gonna even say this, but if it can help just one person - it's ok. I'm sure most of you are familiar with the story of the prodigal son. Hmmm... but just what is it you remember about this story? You remember that the father forgave the son who blew it, came back, repented, he even threw a big party! Right? End of story. At least that's usually as far as the sermon or Sunday School lesson went. But did you ever consider how the brother of the prodigal son felt, the one that just got a mention in the passage?
A couple years ago I was feeling incredibly sorry for myself. Pouting. Sulking. Whatever. Life just didn't seem fair. I had friends who always talked about all the cool things they did growing up. And all the not so cool, but in all honesty, fun learning experiences. The partying, the drinking, all the things you try, and revel in and move on from as you mature. But you still had the experience, enjoyed it, learned from it. And had great stories to tell.
Unless you were raised in a Christian home - and were not the rebellious sort. Overtly rebellious anyway. No, no, I followed the rules, stayed on the correct side of the line, went to youth group, did all the expected Christian things, went to Bible college, and was proud of it. I was God's good girl. I got acceptance and praise. I was doing something right, unlike those sinful friends....
And expecting to be rewarded for my sacrifice! I'm better than you and God loves me more..... well, at least that's the attitude I had.
Until years later when I started hearing (and really listening to) the stories. The fun. The experiences. The rites of passage. From the kids who did whatever they wanted and had a blast. And then repented and God loved them just as much as he did me. And forgave them, and welcomed them to His family. Unconditionally. What? What the heck was I doing denying myself all this stuff for then anyway? It's not fair. There must be some kind of special reward for purity and following the rules! How dare these people even think they are accepted and loved just like me? And so a few fights with God ensued. IT'S NOT FAIR! I was basically stomping my feet and acting like a child with a sense of entitlement. And stunted growth.....
In the middle of this a good friend gave me a book. It was Christmas time, and it was a gift. He had no reason for picking that certain book, it was just a good book, and one that he thought I would enjoy. (Trust me, I asked him later) The book was Return of the Prodigal Son by Henry Nouwen. I settled in to read, and suddenly I stopped. Shocked. This book was about me! Was my friend inside my head? WHY did he give me this book? I never in my life really saw the words in Luke 15: 25-31 about the brother. This wasn't his story, right? And now the brother's story was hitting me over the head. I was the selfish, ungrateful, entitled brother who was angry that the father had thrown the lavish party and accepted the prodigal back with open arms! He had had his cake and eaten it too! He had sinned, sown wild oats, spent tons of money - and then when it all came crashing down came crawling back to daddy. Who threw a party for him! Instead of telling him he had gotten what he deserved. And he hoped he had learned a lesson. And yes, he could live there again, but he'd better shape up and get his act together - he'd better take lessons from his brother!! No! He threw a party!
No judgment. No punishment. No recrimination. No conditions. And the brother sat on the side lines and sulked. Why did I deny myself this life of fun if it made no difference to our father?
See where I'm going here? God is God. He can choose to forgive anyone and restore them and reconcile them to himself for no other reason than that he wants to. It's who He is! And it IS fair. It's His call! I can sit and whine all I want - like Jonah did with regards to Ninevah. Who threw such a temper tantrum that God had to use a fish and a fast growing and equally fast dying shady plant to teach him the important lesson that EVERYONE is important to God. And loved. And forgiven. And no less accepted than anyone else no matter what they have done! And that God can do whatever HE wants. Ninevah didn't deserve God's salvation? The prodigal son didn't deserve unconditional love and welcome?
Oooooh - how convicting. How stupid and selfish I was being......
Tho it hurt, I was so grateful for the gift of the book. And the lessons I learned. Some days it isn't any easier and I have to remind myself I'm acting like a pharisee. Or a spoiled child.
God is God. And can do whatever he pleases. Really.