Working for God?

[Another journal excerpt from my July eight-day silent retreat…]

Luke 15:11-32

What do I want, desire, or feel as I listen to this passage? I want to feel the prodigal love of the Father for me in my wayward, wasteful, rebellious places. I want to know the generosity of the Father in the very face of how I have been greedy and foolish with the resources He has entrusted to me.

I want to receive the grace the Father is giving me in my elder brother places—in my feelings of dutifulness, of feeling abandoned or forgotten by the Father in the face of His apparently greater love for the returning sinner. I’m sometimes tempted to resent the attention the newcomer seems to get from the Father. But, this is the nature of the Father.

As the sometimes prodigal, I want to feel the utterly undeserved and lavish love of the Father for me. I want to see Him running to me as I return. I want to feel His compassion in my self-centered, blind resentment. I want to experience myself as a son, rather than feeling like a hired hand—paid to do a job, but not loved like a son.

When the son returns, he has a prepared speech designed to win just enough favor from his father to be accepted back as a farmhand. He figures that’s the most he can hope for since he has obviously burnt the bridges of his father/son relationship. He’s hoping for survival and little more. I sometimes imagine myself as lucky to be hired by the Lord, and don’t feel myself worthy to be called son. Of course, the returning son isn’t received and loved because of his résumé or rejected because of his record. His achievements are, in fact, only a liability.

I think I am often like the elder brother, apparently clueless in regards to the reality that everything the Father has is already mine, and my belovedness is unshaken, even if it isn’t as dramatically displayed as with the returning son.

It seems, too, that the younger son and the older son both want to relate to the father on the basis of work. The younger son feels he has permanently damaged his relationship with his father and can only hope to work for him for livelihood. The elder son wants to relate to the father on the basis of his perfect record of hard work and obedience. His perspective is that he is more slave than son. Certainly the father never did or said anything to this elder son to give him this idea. Both the younger and elder sons need to realize that their father sees them both as sons first. They seem to think that he is mostly hard to please and lacking generosity.

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