Let Him Interrupt

His boy was finally home. The lost son had appeared around the bend. The dead – was now alive. It was celebration time! What a scandalous story of mercy, the Prodigal Son. This son as-good-as spit in his father’s face, asking for his inheritance early, left home and spent it in no time – frittering away his portion of what his father worked hard to earn. It wasn’t his remorse, actually, but his hunger pangs that drew him back home. Jesus tells the story with precision and purpose recorded in the gospel of Luke.

I am focusing today, on just a couple of moments in it, where he is sitting in shame and pig slop, considering the worst case scenario vs. the best. What to do. Do I dare return? If so, what would I have to say for myself? I’ll pick up the scripture in verse 18 of Luke 15, where the young man is thinking and planning it out:

“I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, 19 and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”

This is human reasoning. First admission. Confession. “I have sinned against God and against you.” And then there is an equating of that sin with a real felt unworthiness to continue as being counted a son, or heir. “I am no longer worthy of being called your son.” And his third statement is one of working to be accepted and to earn his keep at his father’s estate. He begs to be allowed to work there. “Please take me on as a hired servant”. Our equivalent of “Will Work For Food”.

It’s human nature to think you are unworthy of his goodness, his mercy, his love. Especially just after you’ve royally messed up. I urge you, let him interrupt you as you pray and reason. Let him stop you mid-sentence. Right there. And not allow you to finish your thoughts  – your “Please take me back, but only use me to serve you.” Your… “I will do all I can to please you God.” Your “I will read my Bible every day, now.” “I will volunteer at church consistently from now on.” “I will keep my promises to you.” “I will pray more.” “I will stop wasting time, money – my life.” “I will…”

What have you prayed?

Let’s pick back up in the story where he finally comes home – in his dirt and stench, with nothing left but poor reasoning and plans:

20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. 21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.[a]

And that is as far as he got. Because his compassion-filled father interrupted before he had the chance to say what he’d rehearsed in his mind – before getting to the big pull – what he thought would be the kicker – the deciding factor: “Let me work for you as a hired servant.”

But the good father interrupted – to speak to his servants, actually. The option, the plan his son had to work – to perform for a wage for his provision – was never even voiced, and certainly never considered:

22 “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.

May I suggest, that the Father – our Father in heaven – longs to interrupt your “I will…”‘s with his, “Quick!…” Notice in the passage above, where he interrupted. His son’s plan was:

1. confession 

2. declaration of unworthiness of son-ship 

3. proposition to earn his wage in order to eat

The father in the parable interrupts after #2. But make no mistake. It’s not because he agrees with #2 and just cuts him off before he gets to #3. He addresses the unchanging of his boy’s status as son first thing, when he says, bring the finest robe and get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. These were signs of this time, of dignity, wealth, authority and family identity. Of belonging, and the position of son, restored. And if that wasn’t implication enough, I see him (yelling excitedly over his shoulder), “this son of mine was dead and now has returned to life!” “This son of mine.” Well, that settles that. The father would never disown his son. No matter what. Nothing would change the relationship at least on the part of Dad. His love and bond were too strong. Even stronger than before!

So that leaves one element in the speech of the squanderer left unaddressed by his dad, #1, the confession of sin.

I believe that was intentional too. No need to bring up the sin and betrayal. To say, “I can’t believe you even bought prostitutes.” No need to talk about it at all. His son brought it up. That was all that needed to be said. Nothing more, nothing less on that. Perhaps because there really should be a humble admission – an honest confession.  But when that happens, it is usually evidence of a heart and mind already changed. Repentance. And that is the starting point for all renewal. All restoration. No need to take him by the arm, walk him back to the pig pen and rub his nose in the nasty pods. There was already repentance.

I know as a parent, I’ve been guilty of doing just that – bringing up the past – dragging my child through the details, even amidst an obvious broken and contrite heart. Why? Many times, I’ve even implemented some made-up punishment vaguely related to the wrong. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it’s my attempt at making sure they know the “depth” of wrong done so they aren’t tempted to go there again. But God is changing me. He’s softening my heart to be more like his. To reflect more mercy, more empathy. More like the father in this parable. It’s been slow, but I see some change.

If you read the rest of Luke 15, you’ll notice his son never bringing up the proposal again. Never bringing up the betrayal committed, the dishonor or the unworthy feeling he had still being considered a son. Because what his father said when he interrupted – this was the new narrative. This was truth. Identity. Significance. Purpose.

Whenever the voice of guilt turns to condemnation, or when your inner voice is declaring unworthiness of being a child of God, but only worthy to serve…

Whenever you feel like you need to perform for His approval, or work for a perceived view of your right standing, or keep doing more, more, more for His provision and sustenance, I implore you ~ repent. Change the way you think about Him.

Let Him Interrupt.

real-ationship

i was just thinking and thanking today – about how God wants to have a “down to earth” relationship with me. He created each of us to have a one-on-one intimate friendship, where we talk, back and forth. where we appreciate each others’ abilities and what sets us apart from everyone else. where our closeness leaves no room for pretense. where trust is the ripe fruit born of the tree of unconditional love.

i’m so glad that i don’t have to fake it with Him. even if i tried, he’d see right through my facade & call my bluff. i was worshiping today and i couldn’t stop the tears from dripping down my cheeks, darkening my satin blouse. i knew my mascara was messed up, my head felt like the woman’s from that nyquil commercial (trying to get over a cold) & i looked like i lacked 5 hrs of sleep, despite my hurried efforts to ‘paint the barn’. but when i got in the car with family waiting, at least my braylon said, “mommy, you look beautiful! your face does, but i like your hair when it’s down …and your shirt is so pretty. the sleeves go poofy out and then in & then out again like a princess.”  i don’t know if he was prompted to say any of that by another thoughtful guy…but i don’t care. it got the job done.

not long ago i messed up by not censoring (or even praying before i wrote & sent) an email to someone who barely knows me. how stupid was i. now this man’s judgment is clouded by my brutal unsolicited honesty and i’m sure he thinks of me as this or that…but you know, after apologizing, i just had to resign to the fact that i am who i am.

i look like this. i act like that. God, you deal with it, the good, bad & ugly. it doesn’t matter! look at me, naked in the noonday sun. i was made by you & for you…so give it to me straight. what needs changin’. what i think of myself means so little. what others think about me means even less. what solomon wrote in ecclesiastes is true…oh, and in the song, bohemian rhapsody…nothing really matters.

nothing… except a real relationship with my Creator. what he thinks of me is what matters. i can walk with him and talk with him and he tells me i am his own. Genesis 3:8 says, “And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden, in the cool of the day:” oh, to be back in the Garden.

…but what so astounds me is that i can have closeness with him right here & right now… he wants it, like a loving father wants closeness with his child, interested in every aspect & accepting regardless of flaws.

i am amazed and humbled.

eye to eye ~ the importance of showing love with your eyes

a cheerful look brings joy to the heart – Proverbs 13:30

braylon (5) was walking around a corner & decided he’d belly-push angel to the ground. ricky & i both just looked at him for 6 sec.s as angel cried. we were shocked he’d try this stunt after so many reminders. but i suppose we also did it as a way of showing our disappointment. what followed was interesting:

braylon’s look turned from satisfied to almost angry, ‘what. why are you staring at me? why is everybody staring at me?!’ he inquired. his lip started quivering. we looked a couple seconds longer & he exclaimed w/a tear dropping down his cheek, “why did you yell at me?!”

ricky & i exchanged a glance of revelation. we never said a word to him. it got me thinkin’.

an area in which i think i harbor a ton of pride, is my parenting. i think moms want to believe deep down that they’re the best. to be complimented as such by another mom is the ultimate up-lifter. conversely, to be called a bad mom or even if someone criticizes our discipling, this seems like the lowest, most degrading insult!

i had to face a weakness. i’m not the ‘bestest mom in the whole earth’ as bray would have me believe. there are things i can & should take more time to work on, but don’t. each day presents with it a new way to improve. it’s discouraging and challenging. i pray for the determination & the strength & the wisdom to become the best mom i can. like the wisdom my brain has soaked up from reading “how to really love your child’. dr. campbell wrote a whole chapter explaining ‘how to show love through eye contact’. with statements that seem so simple, i wonder why i need reminding. just take a look at a few excerpts:

The more a parent makes eye contact with his/her child as a means of expressing love, the more a child is nourished with love and the fuller is his emotional tank.

It is easy for parents to develop the terrible habit of using eye contact primarily when they want to make a strong point to a child, especially a negative one. We find that a child is most attentive when we look at him straight in the eye. We may do this mainly to give instructions or for reprimanding or criticizing. This is a disastrous mistake.

Remember that eye contact is one of the main sources of a child’s emotional nurturing. When a parent uses this powerful means of control at his disposal in a primarily negative way, a child cannot but see his parent in a primarily negative way. And though this may seem to have good results when a child is young, this child is obedient & docile because of fear. As he grows older, the fear gives way to anger, resentment, and depression.

An even worse habit parents may fall into is actually using the avoidance of eye contact as a punishment device. Consciously refusing to make eye contact with a child is usually more painful than corporal punishment. It can be devastating.

What we must understand at this point is that parents must use eye contact as a continuous love-giving route, and not merely as a means of discipline.

the Lord has gently shown me this week that I may not be the ‘most’ beautiful woman or the ‘bestest’ mom on the whole earth, but in me ~ is God’s image. in me ~ is the power to do all things. in me ~ resides beauty & strength (insert my girl, christina‘s song, ‘beautiful’ here).

seriously…i want God to help me use my eyes to communicate love, not disappointment! even yesterday, i started a new phrase to be a better example ~ i get up in my son’s face when i want to say something in love & i start with, ‘eye to eye’.

Lord, look at me in the eye & work out the kinks (psalm 139:23). forgive me. i need grace; new opportunities. show me how to show them that my love, too, is unconditional.