Monday, January 07, 2008

Lessons from the One who Stayed Home

There were many sweet moments I enjoyed over the weekend that are not quantifiable. But they're so rich I can taste them and savor them still. They fortify my soul with conviction of the Father heart of God- and how He delights to give, to share, to have me join in on what He is doing. I am "seeing" things- and I have asked God that I might have eyes to see, this year.

After Church yesterday, Bill and I were able to have a little unexpected date. Abby was at a friend's house for the afternoon, and Alex went ice fishing with his grandfather, uncle, and cousin. I was a bit nervous as the day seemed warm and I wondered if the ice at the nearby lake was strong enough.

I will honestly tell you that I told my son, before he left, "Alex, if the ice breaks- save yourself first! Then lay down on the ice, stretching your body out, and try to rescue the person that way." (As if I'm an expert on ice safety or rescue or anything at all remotely like that. What I'm an expert at is trying to watch out for my children.)

We called later in the day, from my cell phone, to see if they had returned from ice fishing. The connection was bad. I could barely hear my brother on the phone. I asked him if Alex was there or had he driven home to our house. There was a pause. Then I hear this unmistakable voice get on the line and tell me, "Alex has fallen through the ice." Nice try, my son, but I am on to your antics!

Later in the evening, the four of us were snuggled up in our bed, watching the second half of Masterpiece Theatre's gripping, romantic production, Jane Eyre. Obviously the four were: Bill, Abby, Harry and me- because Alex only watches enough of British films to learn how to imitate their accent and tease me later with it. And Harry watches British films with us because that's how he gets to snack on popcorn.

Such peace and such sweetness of....I hate to use the word, fellowship. It sounds so old fashioned, so archaic and proper. But do we have a word today that expresses the joy of being together? "Hanging out together" is the best I can do, and that term fails to express the significance of it.

Before the movie started, I was reading in my book, The Journey of Desire. I re-read the end of chapter three. I couldn't get that picture of the parable of Prodigal Son out of my mind (Luke 15). I was not so much thinking about the prodigal son but the son who had dutifully remained at home, carefully serving the Father, laboring faithfully in the family business. He's the bad guy everyone mocks because he was pouty and resentful instead of rejoicing over the prodigal brother's return.

But I don't think the prodigal is anyone to lift up as an example either. In my mind they are two extremes in the Church today. The prodigal represents the wayward, selfish, carnal Christian. He throws caution to the wind. He returns home prompted by hunger pains, really. His desire was for provision and safety- not necessarily the presence of his Father, but the provision of his Father (Luke 15:17).

But the other son, the dutiful son, is just that: dutiful, pious and self righteous. He has been careful and supposedly obedient. But when the wind was at his back, he refused to go with it. He refused to celebrate being with his Father on a daily basis, refused to avail himself of all that the Father had- and yet later wailed that the Father had never thrown him a party.

The Living version has the the father telling the dutiful son this, "Look dear and I are very close, and everything I have is yours." Very close? Are they really that close? The Father was being kind. Perhaps He was being prophetic- and foreseeing the day when their physical proximity would not be the only factor of closeness.

We can be closely following the Lord, staying in His word, and yet be far away in our heart. We can be pious about our actions of discipline and obedience, yet fail to see that we are longing for a party, a celebration of grace, where we dance with joy at being in relationship with the Lord of Heaven and Earth Himself.

If I was intimately aware of the father's deep desire to give these blessings to me, I would not seem so bold but rather it would be fitting for me to ask Him freely. If I made my heart vulnerable to Him, opened up those long -held dreams I have and asked God to review with me where we are at, it would say something about how I know God.

"To live with desire is to choose vulnerability over self-protection; to admit our desire and seek help beyond ourselves is even more vulnerable. It is an act of trust. In other words, those who know their desire and refuse to kill it, or refuse to act as though they don't need help, they are the ones who live by faith. Those who do not ask, do not trust God enough to desire. They have no faith. The deepest moral issue is always what we, in the heart of hearts, believe about God. And nothing reveals this belief as clearly as what we do with our desire." (Eldredge)

I hate the idea of the selfish, carnal son returning home, mainly out of hunger for food. But what I hate even more is to think I could be like the dutiful son, at home, close to the Father- and yet so far away. The dutiful son longs for a party, a fuss made over him too- when he has the reason for the party right next to him. He lives with the Father of Celebration and Life, and yet he has never boldly requested, "Father, Let's dance! Father, can we explore together? ...and Father, can we talk, again?"

I'm going to be asking God these things, requesting more of an adventure with Him. I'm going to be asking not so much for more provision- but rather the eyes to see what He has provided already. But more than that, I'm going to snuggle in close to Him, taking in His presence, and sighing deeply with satisfaction...that I am always with Him.

He says to me, "You and I are very close. And all I have is yours."


twinklemom said...

*Hugs* That sounds like a really great book to be reading.

I think with the prodigal son and the dutiful son, is that as a Christian, it's why it's so important that we study the bible and always self-question ourselves and more than anything keep talking to helps us keep our minds and souls "cleans" else we are in danger of either becoming too much like the world or too much legalistic like the Phrasiee but so long as we strive to be honest with ourselves and God, it is like that bar that tightropes hold to keep themselves in balance.

When we look everywhere but to God and to His Word though, we are in danger of being like a ship that tries to steer without a map and compass and runs the risk of becoming lost.

Angie said...

Fascinating. I never thought too much of the "dutiful" son at home. Never even heard a sermon with that angle.

Great post, Lauren. I always appreciate what you have to say.

Kim S in SC said...

Lauren: When I read your post it reminds me of the hot, cold, and the ones that are luke warm(and spit out). Oh that I not be satisfied with any walk that is not on fire for this HOLY God. (and yet, admittedly there are many moments of disconnect or cold indifference that I have to confess to HIM)And there HE is..ready to welcome me back. Thank you for this post.

Loveable said...

This scripture reminds me so much of a day of awakening when raising my girls alone...I had one who was dependable and in-step with me all the time; the other was gregarious and determined to depart from the normal path. The dependable one always seemed un-demonstrative when it came to expressing affection; the other, the baby, loved to be cuddled and playful. One day, only thru the power of the Holy Spirit, I was hugging, playing and kissing the baby; I turned, grabbed Ms. dependable and wrestled her down to the floor to hug, play and kiss her. It was a significant turning point in our life...I realized she thrived on the affections, just as the younger one did but she was uncomfortable making her desire and feelings of being left out known to me. It was an awesome learning experience for me more than the children...but it seemed to balance their differing needs.

LAUREN at Faith Fuel- said...

Great to hear from you all!

Loveable- That was a powerful illustration!

"I realized she thrived on the affections, just as the younger one did but she was uncomfortable making her desire and feelings of being left out known to me"

We so need to get comfortable telling Him everything on our heart. He knows it all already, but we need to hear ourselves and what our heart is calling out for.

Anonymous said...

I am new to your blog, and I must tell you that I find it immensely inspiring. Thanks a lot for such a 'feel-good' blog. I really needed something like that to lift my spirit.
This post makes me realise that life isn't all about getting a degree and working so hard in some boring office job just to fill your bank account with green notes. Its about love and affection and caring for loved ones, and thank you for reminding.


LAUREN at Faith Fuel- said...

This life can be so much more than striving and laboring and accumulating- you're right.

I do believe you might take a bite of God's grace and find it amazingly satisfying. Glad you stopped by!

~Robin said...

oh, I've so been in that dutiful place the last year or so! I heard a song by Hillsongs Australia-'Believe' and it brought me to tears, convicting me of my lukewarm state.
"I'm not satisfied, living in yesterdays hour, Im not satisfied, to have the form but not the power, Im not satisfied, o Lord I am crucified in You-
We believe in You, we believe in the power of Your Word and its Truth, we believe in You, so we lay down our cause that our cross might be found in you."
Thank You Lord for stirring the stagnant water in my life.
The posts here on Faith Fuel have just reinforced all that God is waking me up to. Thank you!