Two things happened that the Lord used to bring my attention to the state of my heart. The outcome has been very sweet though the realization of it was not a little uncomfortable.
1) One day several months ago I was given a bit of money to put towards repairing our deteriorating bathroom. Even though I was very happy about the additional funds for the bathroom, I found that at the same time I was also wanting to say “no thanks” (and probably did before accepting it) because something in me felt that I needed to stop taking “hand outs” and take responsibility as an adult for our house. We own the house after all, we should be able to maintain it too without help! There was something in me saying, “I need to work for this” to prove I’m something, even if it was just to prove I’m a “successful” adult.
The crazy part was, I had this monetary gift in my hands, and though I had been given the freedom to use it as I saw fit, in the end, I didn’t actually put it towards anything of great import let alone into a savings jar for the bathroom. I can almost guarantee it went to towards something like pizza for supper that night. I wonder if the gift was wasted because I hadn’t fully received it…
2) Recently, and not for the first time, I experienced envy towards someone I loved who God had lavished a beautiful gift on. When I heard about it I became jealous before I could be joyful and the thought of, “but I’ve done everything right, why not me?” popped up…Sigh…Seeing this in myself was awful and yet, a very good thing.
It stood out to me that these attitudes towards gifts both spiritual and physical in the above mentioned examples extends further and deeper than just my relationships in the physical world, it is also a spiritual attitude and condition towards the greatest Giver and the most generous Parent.
There’s a pride in me that balks at a gift like God’s grace, a gift that completes a work that I didn’t work for, or deserve. It’s a pride which sulks because Grace strips it of the win, strips it from being able to say “look at my strength, my ability , look what I did”. And ultimately, this pride sulks because it can’t maintain the lie that I can be God. Honestly, it’s difficult to see this pride- it has mastered the art of hiding behind many things piled up in the corners of my heart. It’s only by God’s grace at all that I notice these glimpses in my daily go-about so that he can help me with it if I’m willing to surrender and listen to him. He’s probably been telling me this for a while…
God showed me something in those two examples above: that I’m a lot like the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son. I’m realizing how much I still often feel like I need to earn my place in God’s house. (Luke 15:11-31). But the father says to his floundering son, "you are always with me and everything I have is yours".
As I’ve been pondering over this parable it dawned on me that the brothers in the picture are actually quite similar. And I love it because by seeing their similarities it has begun to wipe out a lot of the self-righteousness that I have harboured for far too long.
The way I see it now, both brothers squandered their father’s riches. The eldest, by working too much for the wrong reasons and neglecting the gifts available and the youngest by burning through his inheritance/ working for someone that didn’t provide abundantly. Neither of them were actually enjoying the Life their father had desired for them and they couldn’t enjoy it until they realized who they were and what their father had for them.
They couldn’t enjoy it until the grace/gift had been fully accepted.
How many beautiful things have I been missing out on because of my half hearted acceptance of grace? My inability to accept and enjoy these gifts because of my pride has made me blind to many good things that have been there for a long time.
I wonder, if Jesus had continued his parable what would have happened in this family scene? I like to think that the older brother realized what his jealous fit was and he took his father’s word as true and began to enjoy his work with his dad from a place of rest instead of it being a chore necessary only to earn approval and keep his place. Did he join in the feast? I wonder if the prodigal, after feasting, went out to the fields and began working joyfully side by side with them with thankfulness in his heart. I like to think that as the two brothers truly saw their dad’s graciousness, generosity, and love and realized the realty of who they were as sons and that they had everything they needed in his house and from his hand, that they became bonded in the unity they had with their father, neither seeing themselves as better or worse than his brother. The happy ending to this story would be that they enjoyed fellowship and community with each other and their dad, lacking nothing, feasting always, and participating freely in the riches their dad so openly provided. It would be a happy household, indeed!
The grace of God, when fully received, destroys the burden of having to do something to be something. Though I work, it’s not my working that makes me his daughter.
The grace of God, when fully received, allows me to rejoice without any duplicity that “He has done it” and enables me to rest comfortably knowing that I’m a child of God, my Father, and that everything of His is mine in and through Jesus Christ, His Son.
The grace of God, when fully received, enables me to enjoy the riches of my father and to use his gifts productively and joyfully, not towards things of little importance but in ways that bring growth and life.
This realization of the depth of pride in me was pretty uncomfortable to experience but the outcome is sweeter than I can tell. It’s made me hate the pride in me more than ever and brought me closer to my Father, like a wall has been knocked down, separating us a little less. And I just know, I just absolutely know, that there is a room, a place prepared for me in my Father’s house.
As I’m writing this I’m reminded of lyrics from the song ‘Reckless Love’ by Cory Asbury,
“There's no shadow You won't light up
Mountain You won't climb up
Coming after me
There's no wall You won't kick down
Lie You won't tear down
Coming after me”
How true this is. How wonderful to think about!
It doesn’t matter if you’re more like that wandering son or like his older brother, I think we all have a bit of each, all one and the same really-the father went to them both with the ready offer; there’s a place for you. All the brothers had to do was accept it and believe it was true.