More than you know

The Prodigal Son charged into his father’s chambers and demanded, “I want all that you have for me right now. I don’t want it within the confines of your authority. I don’t want to wait for your perfect timing and I don’t plan to spend it on anything that would please you.” Essentially, give me my eternity now, I’d rather have a full and frivolous today than wait for the revelation of your mysterious promise of eternal riches.

Plodding my way through this familiar story on my “through the Bible in a year” plan, I was suddenly hit with a new perspective. I am not immune to society’s constant quest for youthfulness, perfection, wealth, security and self-preservation. My eating disorder is proof that I fell for the lie that today is all that matters and that I am the only person who can create my perfect destiny.

So I stole my inheritance from my Heavenly Father, this body, created personally for me. I took this brief, beautiful life and charged into the world determined to make the most of this moment, this life, right now and do it my way. It didn’t take long.

The Prodigal quickly wasted his inheritance. There is only so much to be purchased, briefly enjoyed and used up in this world. In no time, I too discovered limited returns on my ventures and unsuccessful attempts to obtain my imagined perfect life. I was unable to craft perfection, incapable of establishing my own lasting value.

Is that the critical error of man, to struggle for the fountain of youth, convinced that this is all there is to live for? What if we returned?

The Prodigal Son gathered  the remnant of his miserable days and trudged home. He planned to offer himself to his father for hire. He knew that even a second rate life, under the care of his father was better than he could do for himself.

So I gathered the scraps of my body, the tendrils of my sanity and limped back to my Father. There, I promised to clean myself up, hoping then He would take me back. I’ll try really hard, just please, please take me back. I’m dying. 

Our stories meld together. Just like in the story, my Heavenly Father laughed with joy and ran to meet me. He exclaimed that I would never have to work for his favor and that my squandered inheritance was pennies compared to the abundance I would partake of in his home.

The story of the Prodigal Son is the story of my recovery. I confess that I forfeited the good inheritance that my Father gave me. This body that is mine, ultimately belongs to Him. But I took it and manipulated it. I ravaged it for the sake of my own longings.

It took years for me to return. I languished in my misery, too humiliated to return to my good and loving Father. But when I did, I discovered that all He has is mine. He has spread a bountiful life before me. From now on, I plan to dig in.

Truth – in the other half of the story

The Prodigal Son has been bugging me lately – because I’m not him. I think most Christians read this story and try to fit themselves into his shoes. They bemoan their wayward habits; then praise the good Father who welcomes them home with forgiveness. Honestly, the more I read this familiar story, I am starting to think the Prodigal had it more “right” than his good-guy big brother.

Years ago, I remember being irritated with my younger sister who seemed to get everything she wanted. Jen got the go-cart she asked for, the kitty, the overnight at a friend’s house, her favorite story at night and on and on. I remember asking her once, “How on earth do you do that? Why do Mom and Dad always say, ‘Yes,’ to you?”

“They don’t,” she insisted, “but they’d tell you, ‘Yes,’ more often too if you just asked.”

At the time, I huffed that I was too mature, I didn’t need to impose upon my parents’ generosity. I wasn’t going to beg for things. I was simply grown-up, dignified, self-sufficient and respectful. It wasn’t polite to ask for things.

Well… Now I think I had my theology wrong. 

Most of the time, when we read the brothers’ parable in Luke 15, we focus on the younger boy, the rebel. He’s the one who barged into his dad’s office and demanded to have what was coming to him. At this point, we don’t know anything about big brother. He’s probably out in the field, working his weary little fingers to the bone, thinking about how disciplined he is, how he must be Daddy’s favorite, how he deserves everything he gets.

You know the rest of the youngest’s story, the philandering, the famine, the pig food, his devastation and finally his return and groveling before Daddy. But do you remember where big brother was when the youngest showed up on the porch? He was out in the field – again, probably working his weary little fingers, thinking about how disciplined he was, how proud Daddy must be of him – especially since that good-for-nothing little brother of his ran off.

And the party started without him.

I don’t think Jesus intended for us to tune out the rest of the story. A full eight more verses round out the parable. Big brother (me) finally came in from the field sweaty and tired. The sound of revelry grated on his nerves, exacerbating his fatigue. When he found out that his little brother had come home safe and sound, he staunchly (on principle I’m sure) refused to join the party.

After a few minutes, Daddy came out to encourage his oldest. He got an earful. “How dare you! I’ve been the good son! I’m the one who has never asked you for anything. I’ve done everything you’ve asked. I’ve followed all the rules – and you never did anything special for me!”

“All that I have is yours.”

What do you think of that? All along, all of Daddy’s store houses, fields and wealth were available to his oldest son. All of Daddy’s riches, servants and companionship was simply there for the ASKING.

I realize that’s how I behaved toward my parents in many respects and certainly how I (and I venture most life-long Christians) behave toward my Heavenly Father. I believe the reason we don’t see more miracles, the reason we don’t enjoy more abundant life and full joy, the reason that we do not have peace, wisdom and contentment – is because we do not ask.

Matthew 7:7, “Ask and you will receive…”.

Luke 11:9-13, “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?”

I wonder how much God has stored up for our inheritance, that we’ve never even seen, dreamed of or dared to ask for. Do you realize that since Jesus came and died and redeemed us, we are sons of God and heirs of promise (Galatians 3:29), heirs of all that Christ purchased for us – life and joy and peace.

In the story Jesus told just before the story of the Prodigal son, he spoke of a shepherd who was more excited about finding a lost lamb than he was about 99 sheep who stayed obediently within their stall. I don’t think that’s because of simple relief. I don’t think it’s because he loved that stray so much more than the others. I think it’s because suddenly, that little stray sheep realized how rich and privileged he was to belong to a shepherd. After his rebellion, he knew how good his shepherd was and how safe he was in the shepherd’s arms.

Anyone in any relationship knows how good it feels to be appreciated. God finds His greatest joy in us, His children, when we acknowledge, ask for and enjoy all that He is for us. Don’t miss out!

Tough Enough to Love

Is love supposed to act tough; or is love supposed to be tough enough to endure impossible situations?

 

Lest, after reading yesterday’s post, you think that I have already made up my mind, and strongly disagree with the principle of tough love in marriage, today and tomorrow I will present the other side of the issue. I have pondered and prayed about this. I don’t want to mislead anyone. I do not want to harden anyone’s heart toward their spouse or dash their hopes of a rescued marriage.

 

I wondered: are there Biblical examples of tough love? Looking for Biblical precedent is a hobby of mine. I love to scour the Old Testament to see if there’s a similar circumstance to the one I am facing. Nine times out of ten, there is. Faithful God leads by example. Sometimes through the example of his earlier children, and sometimes through His very person.

 

Consider the cross. Love has never accomplished a more excruciating feat. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only son, that who ever believes in Him might have everlasting life.” John 3:16

 

Because a perfect blood sacrifice was the only way to pay the cost of forgiveness from sin, God willingly made that sacrifice Himself. In the name of Love, God slaughtered His only Son. Could the price have been any higher, or the pain any more insufferable? Could love have been any tougher?

 

Consider the prodigal son. A young, belligerent son scorned his generous father. With a callous shrug, he demanded his inheritance, virtually spit in his father’s face and walked out the door. How long did it take the mutinous boy to squander his money and end up dining on pig slop? What did the father endure in that time? One thing is for sure, he loved his son.

 

When the broken, humiliated rogue stumbled up the road toward his father’s home, he only hoped to be accepted as a servant. But tough love, love that withstood abandonment and rejection ran to meet him. Strong love.

 

Is tough love appropriate in marriage? At least in this context it is. It must be. Love must be strong enough to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things. 1 Corinthians 13:7