Sunday, September 30, 2012
"Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me," said the son to the father in the parable of the prodigal son. The father did not refuse his son, but certainly his heart must have been heavy as he watched his son leave. But what good to try and hold his son there under these circumstances, with the boy so convinced that the life he had was so much less than what he could have? How to tell him? How to make him understand?
And so the son separated himself from the presence of his father. There was nothing now to restrain him. He had freedom and money and youth. He traveled to that far country just as he had planned. All the money he had he spent in "wild living." There is probably no doubt given his youth and the fact that he'd never traveled away on his own that he was taken advantage of by many. He became immersed in a search for pleasure, but it cost him everything.
With all the money he had gone and no other way to provide for himself he took work as a swineherd, but clearly he was still desperately poor. So the story goes, he got to the point of wishing for the food thrown to the swine, and it's at that point that he knew. Jesus described the experience by saying the young man "came to himself." He understood at that point the goodness of all he had once had from his father. He made a decision that he would return to his father and ask for a place as a servant.
At the sight of his son, his father was filled with a sense of love and great compassion. The painter, Rembrandt, captured the full emotional impact of this reunion between father and son and the representation through the story of God's tremendous love and mercy. Here is the son, so changed by this experience; it has wearied him and aged him. He kneels before his father and receives love and understanding to a degree he had not dreamed of. Such is the love God has for each one of us in this world.
Thursday, September 13, 2012
I was three years old, as I recall. I lived with my parents and brother in an apartment in Jackson, Michigan. We didn’t own a car at that time and I remember that when I had a terrible ear ache my mom called a taxi. The memory is kind of hazy but I recall feeling miserable and leaning my head against my mom’s arm as the driver took us to the hospital. At the hospital the doctor wanted to look in my ear because what had happened is that my mom had been cleaning my ear with a Q tip at home and I had suddenly turned and the Q tip had jammed quite far into the ear causing bleeding. Well, the doctor wanted to look and I was going to have none of it. I resisted with all the effort I could muster and even with reinforcements of the staff I managed to hold them off for a time. They finally conquered by rolling me tightly into a sheet. At that point I resorted to hysterical cries as they grasped and pressed my head to hold it in place. There were little murmured conversations going on around me and terrifying clicks and other unidentifiable sounds. I felt the probe going into my ear and I held my eyes shut as tight as possible. “Julie,” I heard the doctor say. He said it almost as a melody. “Ju-lie, guess what I see? I see a bunny.” That was all it took, and my fear went away, because of one man who knew how to talk to a child.
Even as adults we experience times when we’re fearful because of the unknown or uncertainty of a situation. We fear a bad outcome perhaps or we’re afraid because we’ve taken on a new responsibility. We might be facing something we never expected and we’re wondering how to get through it. It’s always good to have someone we can talk to, but of course the best thing to do is to go to God in prayer. There are many reassuring words we can hear from people, but they can’t put that calmness within our spirit. That has to come from the Lord. There truly is nothing to equal the healing, calming touch that God provides. And so as a child I needed someone to tell me in a way I could understand that there was nothing to fear, but when I became an adult “I put away childish things” and my understanding became clear because of Christ.