As I started this Lenten season to be honest it was the beginning of “returning” for me. It is funny, not haha funny, more God funny, how certain things get put in your path at just the right time to be aids in the “returning” process. On this returning process it has been a little Lenten meditation book given to be my mother-in-law. It is called “From Fear to Love, reflections on the Parable of the Prodigal Son” by Henri Nouwen. I have always been a fan of Henri Nouwen’s writings but this time it seems as though God has hand picked one to be an aid/guide as I begin yet again the returning process. Over the past year, as I said in the first reflection, I feel like the efforts or lack there of to deal with these issues has not truly gotten me anywhere. As a result I have often felt unworthy and honestly scared to return to the Father, whose infinite love waits patiently for the return of his son. A couple of things that I have stood out to me in these reflections that I wanted to share because I think the are applicable to each and everyone of us prodigal sons and daughters whether we find ourselves in the younger or the older son’s role.
“The Love of the Father embraces not just the return of the son but also the leaving of his child. That is really important: the whole movement of leaving and returning is a movement done under the loving eyes of the father.”
As a father myself, this reminds me of something that my son, Dude, says all the time, “Daddy, don’t see me,” He will say this when I am standing right in front of him and it usually involves one of three things, either he is mad at me about something I have just told him, he is doing something he should not be doing or he is trying to “surprise” me with something special. This is the exact same thing we try to do with our Father in Heaven. When life hurts us in a way that throws us for a loop and all out of wack we usually ask one of two questions, God why did you do this? or God, how could let this happen? And the reaction that follows is like Dude’s, “God, don’t see me” and we go off to try to “figure it out on our own.” Am I right? And to be honest I believe God’s response is similar to my response to Dude, “Ok, buddy, I don’t see you, said with a loving grin and all the while keeping a watch eye on what he is doing. The loving eye of the Father never leaves us, even though we think we are “out there on our own.” When Dude is upset with me he goes off and does his own thing and usually, being the big soft hearted lug that he is, like we all are whether we act like it or not, he comes back in to me in a matter of minutes and says, “Daddy, I’m sorry for not listening, do you forgive me?” And my response is the same every time, I wrap his little body up in a big hug and say of course I forgive you and I love you so much. If I, an imperfect father, have the ability to do this for my child, how GREATER is our perfect Heavenly Father’s response when His child returns. So the question is “Why do we leave?”
Nouwen’s response to this is:
“I believe that in a very deep sense, one has to be convinced of God’s love in order to take the risk of leaving once in a while…It is important to understand that God’s love fills you and surrounds you whether you are leaving or returning, and that God waits with longing love to welcome you on your return.”
If Dude was not certain of my love, would he walk away or would he return? If he didn’t know with confidence that he was safe to get upset and angry with me and at the same time know with certainty that upon his return he would be met with love and forgiveness, would he leave? Or more importantly, would he return? I think these are interesting questions for all of us to ask ourselves. I think written deep in our hearts is a confidence in the love of our Heavenly Father. Even with all that life has thrown our way, somewhere underneath the pain and rubble of what was once our innocent and pure hearts remains the confident love of a son or a daughter in the powerful love of their Heavenly Father. I think what Nouwen is saying is that if we can begin to realize that the love of God is not ONLY with us when we are doing everything right, but with us ALL the time, it begins to make our return a easier and quicker. If today we can try to connect with that confident love in the Father that was woven into our hearts when we were created we can begin to experience life in a new way. A new way in which our “leavings” and our “returnings” do not have to be filled with resentment and guilt, but that we can begin recognize that they are surrounded by the acceptance and love of our Heavenly Father. If we can begin to do this then the leavings don’t have to be years of hurt, anguish, and loneliness, but can be times of, Ok, God, I need a minute here to think about how I feel about what just happened, knowing that His loving eye is on you and your return can be like that of Dude, quick and confident in what is waiting for you, that being perfect acceptance, love and forgiveness.
I think that the question that poses itself naturally right now is what are we waiting on…RETURN!
Its been a while since I've been inspired to write but I think its returning, below is another one that I wrote recently.