We would call him a wastrel or spendthrift or a lazy man or squanderer, but Jesus called him the lost[NIV] or prodigal[NRSV or MSG] son in His parable. In some ways we all feel like that lost son(or daughter) who has “spent” our inheritance from God in bad ways; we are undeserving of God’s love and forgiveness, but still want to be close to Him. So we settle, like the son did, for a truncated relationship with God—holding on to our shame and guilt and grief. We head home to God, but flinch at what our reception will be, knowing what we know about ourselves. [Luke 15:11-32]
And we stay on the outside, unwilling to accept God’s offered love and forgiveness, hold Him off at arm’s length. We are unable to take our place in His household and to live there. We hold onto our “stuff” so that we don’t have to suffer what we project/expect to be his rejection or punishment of us.
But is that what God wants? No! There He is in the parable, watching for the son’s return. Running out to greet him, to welcome him home. Celebrating his return by killing the fatted calf. And restoring him to his rightful place in God’s family.
And there is God’s welcome and restoration going to waste, because we don’t think that we are lovable. We have not forgiven ourselves; we have not embraced all that we are; we keep ourselves from God, always standing on the outside, never going in, never allowing his arms to embrace us, never feeling at home in his arms.
The lost son must have felt overwhelmed by the welcome. It’s definitely not what he(or we) expected. Who knew that God would love and forgive us anyway for who we are, just as we are? And here we are twenty centuries later, still unable to believe that we are lovable, still at the threshold of the kingdom, sticking to our stories about ourselves, and not stepping into our Father’s house and His arms. We can’t give credence to this parable about God and how he would welcome us, because we are “know” that we are such damaged goods, full of guilt and shame.
The real question for us Christians is this: Will we allow God to love us, warts and all? Will we accept his love and forgiveness in spite of how we feel about ourselves? Will we let go of the hard shell(a turtle-like shell as I wrote recently) with which we protect ourselves and throw ourselves into his arms?
There is no hope for a real transformation of who we are into people that God can use to usher in his kingdom here on earth, until we can allow God to love us, until we can feel God’s love for us in every cell in our bodies, in our hearts and minds and souls, too.
Until we do allow His love for us in, we are standing at the door knocking, but with our arms outstretched, our hands held up to keep Him from coming too close. And we will be in that state until we can admit that God doesn’t think like we do, He doesn’t love conditionally like we do, He isn’t like us at all.
But we are like Him; we were created in His image, with some of His capacity. And we were declared good. [Genesis 1:26-27, 31] Maybe the only way to get beyond only believing that God loves us to actually feeling his love is to accept this truth and apply it to ourselves. If God can love me, then maybe I can love myself. If God can forgive me, then maybe I can forgive myself. If I can begin to admit and embrace all that I am, then maybe that will create pathways within me that can allow God’s love to pour into me and I can feel it! I can actually feel it!!!
What a different world this would be if we Christians could actually feel God’s love for us, actually allow Him to love us! We would have to lower our hands that keep a safe distance between us and God and step into his arms, allowing His love to wash over and in and around us until we could embrace ourselves and see ourselves as He sees us. That is the great gift of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. [Luke 15:11ff]
Until that day we are more like the second son, the “good” one, who has obeyed his father in everything, but never felt his love, never stepped into his arms. We tried to perfect ourselves by following every law, every dot and tittle; we lived with our Father, but never received His love, because we weren’t yet perfect. Our behavior was “perfect,” but our hearts weren’t. There was a lack of integrity in us; on the surface we look “good,” but our attitudes belie everything we do.
The two sons betray the same lack of understanding of how the Father regards them. They can’t take in his love, even though it is freely offered. They can’t enjoy their lives and all that they are, because they are so flawed and trying to make up for being so flawed. Neither really believes in God’s love and forgiveness for them.
So what are we going to do about our fear of God and what he really has in store for us? Will we move into His arms and allow him to love us? Will we trust His Word, his love and forgiveness of us? Will we become who He created us to be? It’s really up to each one of us, because God will not violate our free will and crash through our barriers. So let’s give Him a change to love us. Let Him show us how to love ourselves!
Questions to ponder over the week: Do just believe that God loves me without allowing His love into my heart, mind, soul and strength? Do I hold myself back from God because I don’t really see how He could love me? Do I really trust that He has my greatest good in mind for me? How can I move closer to God, to feeling God’s love for me? What is the first step? And the second?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who can feel God’s love for ourselves. May we pass on that love to everyone we meet. May we live the fruit of the Spirit in our lives with everyone, we are loving, at peace, full of joy, being patient, good, kind, faithful, gentle and self-controlled.
Look on this page for the archives of my blog going back to 2011 at bythewaters.net/blog.html.