Monday, May 19, 2014

The Father of a Prodigal Son

I have spent some time recently pondering many things. I have pondered the meaning of love, true love, godly love, lasting love.

And during this pondering I was reminded of the Parable in Luke 15:11-32 concerning the Prodigal Son.

I have heard many messages concerning this Parable. I have heard messages that centered around the younger son who took his inheritance and squandered it and came to find himself literally living among the pigs where he remembered how it was at home and decided to make his way back.

I have heard messages about the older brother who stayed behind all those years and worked only to have his younger brother come back and be celebrated even after his poor choices.

And, I have heard messages about the father that was watching and waiting for his son to come home.

It is that aspect that has been rolling around in my head lately.

The Bible says that, "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him." (verse 20)

There is a love that a true parent (father or mother) has for their child that goes beyond any realm of love that is understood, only to be likened to the love of God for us. It is this love that causes a father to watch for a son that has left all that he has known and been taught and waste all that he has been  given. It is this love that never lets that longing for that child leave.

Now, I know those times were much different than where we are today. But, I can't help but wonder what that father would have done today.

I know of those that see one leave the fold and as far as they are concerned that person no longer exists. They are basically shunned. But, can a father turn off that great love for his child? He may not agree, he may not support, but would love disappear?

I thought about that father all of those years ago wondering where his son was, if he was okay, and if he even survived. And I thought about him longing to see him, longing to hold him in his arms, and longing to tell him he loved him once again.

In today's times I imagined that father sending little text messages, "Hey son. I just wanted you to know you were on my mind. I love you. I'm praying for you." 

I thought of him phoning and getting voice mail. "It's Dad. I just wanted to check in on you. It was good to hear your voice, even if it was just a recording. I love you. I hope to hear from you soon."

Maybe he would send an email just to let him know how everyone was doing, or even a picture from home to remind him of where he came from. 

And, I thought of that father on that day when he looked out and saw his son coming toward home, even though he still had a ways to go, and I thought of his greeting for that son. 

When he greeted him he had no idea why the son was there. He didn't know if he was just passing by, if he were there for a short time, or if he was there for forever. He had no idea if that son had come back to ask for more so he could once again go out into the world and live a life separate from him. 

All he knew was his son was coming toward home, and that was a cause to celebrate. He didn't rush to him and condemn him for leaving. He let his love and his excitement show and welcomed him back home as his son. 

Because, you see, the son knew all he had lost. He knew just how far that he had gone and just how low he was. The father wasn't there to witness his time rolling around with the pigs, but no doubt he could still smell the stench. And yet, he was filled with compassion for his son, and he wrapped his arms around him and kissed him giving the son no indication he could even tell where he had been. 

He didn't have to remind him of where he had been or what he had lost, the son was well aware of that. He simply reminded him how loved he was, whether it was for an hour, a day, or forever, that son that may as well have been dead had come home where he belonged. 

It may have been the things that he had left behind that drew him back to his father's house, but it was the love of his father that kept him there and encouraged him to wash the filth of the world off and resume his rightful place back at home with the family who loved him. 

As a mother I can really identify with this father. My children are not perfect, but neither is their mother. I cannot imagine my love being conditional on their circumstances. I cannot imagine my love being conditional, period. 

Do I always agree with what they do or where they are? No. Do I support them in things I don't agree with? No. 

Do I love them because they are mine? Yes. Unquestionably. 

This is a given with me because there is a bond that goes beyond any other relational bond there with my children. But, that unconditional love is harder to exhibit to others at times. 

And, I have noted during my present struggle it is harder to feel when you are the one trying to get back home. When you are in the distance walking toward your Father's house it feels more like the older brother is there to greet you at the door when you arrive than the Father who loves you beyond reason and who rejoices at any progress you are making to find your way back to His arms. 

I don't know exactly how to close this out. I have nothing witty or profound to say here except think. When you have thrown away everything you have and found yourself having to return to that place where you remember safety and love and support, think about what would bring you to that decision and how it would feel to have to come back to a place where you once had so much and now you are broke, and hungry, and dirty and stained. Think about how different this Parable would have ended if the father had reacted as many of you have when that one that has been as one dead has returned. 

That's all I ask. 

Luke 15:
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Beautifully Broken

I remember years ago when I was a child living in College Park, one of the things that we enjoyed doing was beating each other with a tube sock filled with other socks until it was quite a weapon.

We didn't indulge in this when there were parental figures around. This was something we would hide and drag out when we were left alone.

Ok....I'm stopping here to clarify. I don't believe I ever actually wielded the sock against my brother or sister. Thinking back, I think my brother just used it against us.....

But, my parents were gone one night and we happened to be in the kitchen with the sock. There was a shelf in there by the door and at some point I bumped into the shelf and it tilted and rattled. The crash that followed was the breaking of my great-grandmother's butter dish.

All the pieces were cleaned up and discarded, but my father was very disappointed to lose something that was of value to him. And, I feel bad to this day.

When troubles come into our lives we respond.

There are many ways to respond, and each response is associated with the type of trouble we are facing.

We can rationally devise a solution.

We can lash out.

We can seek counsel.

We can cower and cry, awaiting someone to rescue us.

Or, as I did when my sock waving brother was looming my way, we can back away looking for a means of escape.

Troubles will always come, no matter what. And, our response can either help or not.

But, when troubles come into our lives, no matter the source, we never leave the other side of the experience without some evidence those troubles existed in the first place.

Just for a minute, I want to discuss how we view that person in troubled times, not how they are dealing with the troubles, but how we deal with them.

One of the most bitter pills for me to swallow during my own recent troubles was the response of those people in my life that I cared for and counted on. I learned a lot about things that I really had no desire to even deal with in the middle of my own *mess.*

One instance in particular comes to my mind. I was talking to someone about my present situation. I was in the lowest point I believe I have ever been in. Just to open up to someone and share where I was spoke volumes about the state of my being.

I sat there completely shattered, the pieces of my life in shards around me. I cannot even describe the place I was in. Just to think on it makes the darkness of that moment swirl around me.

And, I sat there, trying to pour out what was left of my heart, receiving a response I had never counted on.....

No matter what else was said during that entire conversation I heard nothing beyond the fact that my broken vessel was an inconvenience to them, that the pieces of my life, of my family were a hindrance, in the way, and instead of taking a vessel that had once been of use, seeing that it was repaired and fit for use once again, at that moment I was swept up in the dustpan and discarded, obviously not worth the effort to repair, of no value any more.

My response to that was to take the pieces and find another way to repair my life. And, I have.

I'm not blaming the other person, I can't. They didn't cause my brokenness. They simply didn't understand that even broken I had the potential to be more valuable than ever before.

There was a concept within the Japanese culture many centuries ago. That concept was wabi-sabi - an embracing of the flawed or imperfect. They valued those vessel that you could see the wear on, the ones that you could tell had been used. Those vessels were honored and treasured.

And when one of their vessels became broken they would use gold, silver or platinum dust to repair the damage. Whereas our modern culture sweeps up that broken thing in the dust pan and throws it away, allowing themselves only the memory of what the vessel once was, the Japanese would literally "highlight" the damage. This event in the life of the vessel became what made that vessel special.

One place I read stated that "the bowl had become more beautiful for having been broken. The true life of the bowl began the moment it was dropped."

Oh, if we could understand that when we look into the faces of those broken people we see every day. If we would take the time to mend the pieces instead of discarding them, if we would look at their past and the problems they faced as though it were what made them beautiful instead of only seeing their brokenness.

Psalm 31:12 I have been forgotten like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel.

When I was thinking on this today, thinking on the people in my life that I love, people that are broken, damaged, hurting, still bearing the scars of past mistakes and still suffering the condemnation of others I thought of that person in the hands of the Potter, the One who made that vessel, the One who knows the true worth of someones life, even when it appears to others that person had no value any longer, and any usefulness they had is dead. 

And, I allowed myself to see that vessel as He sees it when He puts the pieces back together and seals each broken place with gold, causing those cracks in their lives to become the most beautiful things about them, and placing them where all can see, giving honor to what they have overcome and proving they are more beautiful for having been broken. 

I looked in the mirror this morning. I really looked at the woman staring back at me. She has been broken. It's there for all to see. But, when no one else thought it worth the mess her life was in and discarded her, someone dug the pieces out of the trash. Standing in the lights of the bathroom, gazing back at me from the mirror was someone who has been beautifully broken. 

So, remember when you find someone with their lives in jagged shards around them.....YOU can respond to their troubles. You can embrace them in their flawed imperfections. And you can help them to understand that their true life has just begun....brokenness is not the end.....

Monday, May 5, 2014

To My Future Grandchildren

I had my daughter when I was just a month shy of 21. I was very young. I am not so young anymore, but "age is just a number," as they say. I don't feel old enough to have a 26 year old. But, I am.

For as long as I can remember I have looked forward to the day I would have grandchildren.

NO---- I was NOT rushing them to become parents. Quite the opposite, really. For many years I had them believing that they could not even have a child (literally) until they graduated from college. One of my friends at the time assured me they would eventually figure it out. She was right.....

I am still not rushing them. I wouldn't trade the years we have had for any amount of money, but I would that I had been able to experience some of the things they are getting to before I started a family. I have spent much time telling them that there is no hurry--enjoy your life and get to know yourself and your spouse before kids come along.

Still and yet, I cannot wait.

There must be something almost "magical" if you will, about holding the child of YOUR child in your arms for the first time. And, seeing them grow and develop into their own person, yet allowing you glimpses of your OWN precious babies at the same time must be amazing.

We had such fun when they were little, so many little games and things we did, and I miss those days keenly. But, I love who they are now and the fact that I can see things that were poured into them over the years manifest now.

I read something that my daughter had written recently that echoed my own words to her many years ago and it made my heart smile to know that she was listening.

For some reason, this morning I had my future grandchildren on my mind. And I could feel that longing in my heart to get to the business of being a *Marmie* to them.

My mother told me in the early years in my marriage when we were in a major crisis that I needed to remember that one day we would have grandchildren together and that was not something we wanted to do apart. But, we will.

I think we will make it the best we can though, and still be able to share some of that joy together while including our new partners. There is no sense in being petty and silly at this point in our lives.

What would I tell them if I could, those babies whose faces I long to see, whose lips I long to kiss?

I would say, boy are we going to have some fun...but, don't think I will let you do whatever you want. I am going to love you and spoil you, but not hurt you. And, if I let you always have your way I do you no good.

Yes, we are going to Disney World....often....count on it....

You will have no idea what you will mean to my life, to know that a part of me, of my own Mama and Daddy will live on, is beyond any words I can put here. And, I will be looking for little pieces of people you will never know this side of glory in you. I know without a doubt they will be there.

I am saving up all kinds of love for you and I pray that I can be around to know you and to watch you grow up and have your own babies someday.

And if, by some chance, I am not around when you come into being, know that I love you even now, in spite of the fact it will be years before I actually see you. I have loved you for a long time. And if you sit really still and close your eyes and open your heart you can feel the love of an ordinary woman who managed to do the extraordinary....she existed.....and she did it with you on her mind and in her heart. Always.