Alright, it has been a hot minute since I’ve written anything here..or anywhere. I’ve been busy with people, places and things that consumed my entire being. I have felt disconnected from God and from my spirituality for quite some time. I’ve felt like I’ve been part of an Exodus. Life has led me to some interesting situations that have brought out sides of me I didn’t even know existed, both good and bad. I’ve been in the desert and in the dark save for a few fruitful and memorable moments. My prayers have been feeble at best and I have gotten to a place where it’s not that I don’t believe in God…it’s more like “what’s the use?.” It’s scary to even write that stuff, much less to have been living it out. I’ve made a few foxhole prayers and closet bargains with God that sounded like “get me outta here and I swear I’ll never do it again.” My prayers have been selfish, mostly because I’ve been only in survival mode and consumed with the most powerful drug that’s ever existed, that’s ME! I’ve been seeking some relief from…………. myself.
I mean it sounds awful to say but “me” is my first thought in the morning and my last thought at the end of the day. I’ve had people come in and out of my life that I claim to have “loved” but I am not capable of truly loving anyone when I’m so consumed with me. I have wondered if anyone else had ever felt this extreme spiritual swing as extreme. Then, for some reason, it occurred to me to re-read the story of the prodigal son also known as “The Parable of the Two Sons.” in Luke Chapter 15. This time though instead of focusing on the obviously wayward son(who’s life becomes a train-wreck) I reread the story of the prodigal son paying close attention to the son that DID NOT sell his inheritance and suffer unbelievable desolation and desperation, at his own bidding. Remember, It got so bad for the prodigal son that he ended up literally with the pigs thinking that their food looked good for him to eat. Then, he “comes to his senses” and remembers what a great deal he had being with the father. So, he resolutely decided to go home to his dad…good choice!
This got me thinking about this one time when I was a kid, it had gotten to be Christmas time. Christmas was always eventful around our house but it never overshadowed the reason for Christmas, which were the presents, right?(kidding) My grandparents always spoiled us grandkids and I was excited to see what they had gotten me this particular year. My sister and I bugged the crap out of our mother and we kept asking her for “hints” about what our big gifts were. I had been told by my grandparents on a number of occasions that I was the “best” “most favored” grandchild, so I of course thought I deserved the biggest present, right? (I think they told my sister the same thing) So, we wore my mom down and finally she began to give us hints about the presents. I was so excited to see what mine was! I knew what I had asked for and I felt sure my grandparents were gonna come through. Then, my mom dropped the most devastating bomb on me. We were asking “who has the bigger present?” And she said “your sisters is bigger.” I was floored, after all, I was the favorite grandchild. I remember I started crying and ran to my room and threw myself on the bed hysterically in a sort of tantrum. My heart was focused solely on me and what I wanted.
What my little brain couldn’t comprehend was that a bigger present did not necessarily mean better. My mom said later that my sisters is a bigger present but mine was more expensive(I missed this part). That statement didn’t phase me. I was solely focused on the fact that my grandparents had betrayed me and gotten my sister a bigger present. Well, little did I know……
Christmas morning came and my sister and I wandered in too see what Santa and crew had left us. The first thing I see underneath the tree was a HUGE, ornate dollhouse, which is exactly what she’s been asking for. I cautiously approached the tree to find a little gift underneath the tree with my name on it. It was small, a lot smaller than my sisters but I ripped open the package with no regard, almost enraged at the fact that my sisters present was bigger. When I opened the present it revealed another box with a type of lid with a hinge. I opened it up and it was exactly what I was asking for but even better, it was a 24k gold calculator watch, the grandest of any calculator watches I’d ever seen. I was overjoyed and very satisfied with the outcome of Christmas morning…but I let some of the “hints” of our presents destroy my joy and cause a resentment against my grandparents and my sister. I in fact did get the better present in regard to what I asked for but I was deflated thinking my grandparents had cheated me somehow.
So, back to the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. Upon re-examining the story I came to a different understanding this time. I, being one myself, celebrated the grace that the wayward son had received from his father, even after all he had done. This time though I felt like I could identify with the heart of his brother who had stayed close to the father the whole time. The story goes on to say that after the prodigal son comes home, the father throws him a huge party and when the brother realizes what is going he becomes resentful and refuses to go in and celebrate his brothers return to the family. The “good” brother approaches the father and basically says “What the hell dad? I’ve never left your side or screwed up my life and you never threw me any kind of party”. The father replies with something like “since you’ve always been with me, everything I have had has been at your disposal.” That’s kinda how that story leaves you hanging but it paints enough of a picture that I can now see myself as either son. The wayward son’s heart is evident at the beginning of the story, he only cares about himself and what he wants(me me me me), which leads him to ruin. However the other sons heart is very much the same, full of resentment toward his father and brother and he acts as if they have both betrayed him. The attitude and the heart of both brothers at some point is clearly self focused.
This “self-focused” heart is one I can relate to most certainly. I think back to my heart and attitude at Christmas time all these many years later and see I’ve always been this way, at least as long as I can remember. It’s easy to plug myself into the role of the prodigal son BUT it’s equally as easy to see myself as the other brother now full of resentment, full of selfish and self seeking motives. I’m working daily to try to eradicate this toxic attitude of my heart. Sometimes I find that the quickest and surest ways to adjust my attitude is to help someone else in need. In recovery we have a saying…lots of sayings actually BUT this one says “we can only keep what we have(sobriety, sanity) if we give it away. It’s then that I find myself free of that old heavy, gross attitude. I’m learning this to be a lifelong process of soul working and re-working done by something/someone outside of myself. It’s odd but the painful season I described to you in the beginning, well it’s that kind of pain that pushes me into the spiritual realm or a connection with God.(Surely there’s an easier way 🙂 The Good Book says he started a good work in me and he’s gonna finish it. That’s a great promise but gosh it’s been a bumpy ride but I believe the result is gonna be less of “me me me.” As singer Matthew Sweet once so eloquently said “I’m sick of myself but when I look at you, something is beautiful and true.”