I've lived my life in the Church, and even within the confines of what should be a safe place designed to help people grow in who they are in Christ, I found myself constantly feeling less than. I had no grand story of overcoming "insert addiction or sin here" so my testimony wasn't encouraged. I was the kid who got saved as a preschooler. So only within the area of recruiting people to the work of children's ministries was my story given value.
Let them step up and share. You keep using those administrative gifts of yours.....
In these days of toil and fatigue as I battle a weary spirit, I've been thinking about that little story in Luke 15. When we speak of the "other brother" in the story of the Prodigal, "legalistic," "selfish," "angry," and "unloving," are all used to describe him.
But I have a theory. I don't think that the brother was bad. I don't think he was selfish. I think his heart was slowly hardened over time, and when he witnessed the audacious and overflowing love between his father and brother, his heart simply broke.
There is nothing in the passage to indicate that he didn't love his father. I think he loved his father so much that he threw himself into working for him. And I think it probably intensified after his brother left. He probably ended up so busy doing things for his father that he never spent time with him. In that moment, of seeing his father run and witnessing the embrace, I suspect that his entire life felt pointless, and while his brother was feeling love, he was feeling loneliness.
Can I tell you how much I get that? I do. I'm the one who never "strayed." I stayed behind and tried so hard to do what's right. And I let myself lose the connection and relationship.
I'm not the Prodigal who left and came back home. I'm the Prodigal who stayed and discovered that my heart had left.
And this story? This isn't glamorous. But whether you find yourself shattered because you are left to try to pick up the pieces of a life you destroyed, or you are picking up the pieces of a shattered heart, we are all in desperate need of a grace to wash over us. We all have a story to tell.
I am shuffling through this Advent season, hidden in the darkness of unmet expectations and brokenness, and I am holding on, waiting not so much for the answer, as for the hope that waits for the answer. And I am tired of being the other one, the one with the broken heart, tired, weary, and drained. The one who tried to do big things for God and has come to realize I am only left with longing.
The older brother, that other one, could have left the field any time he wanted to and found his father, and his father would have given him the same embrace. I imagine that he would have been so pleased to see him leaving the work behind to spend time with him, that his father would have made a meal for him too, just so they could sit together, feast together, and just be.
And I don't know what that looks like for me. I've grown to love this field I've been tending. It's hard work and I struggle with it, but it's all I know. I'm scared to leave and have that meal with the Father....I wonder what we'd talk about after I finished an ugly cry where I just let it all out.
I've seen the others come home, embraced by the Father. And I sit, heels planted in this field, too busy to leave. But He calls me home, just like He does to all of His prodigals. For this child of mine was dead and has come to life again; she was lost and has been found.
Bring your hope.
Even so,come, Lord Jesus.
Today I am linking up at Emily Wierenga's place for Imperfect Prose - a community of people sharing their stories of redemption, where everyone's story has value.