This semester our women's Bible study at church is going through the Gospel Centered Life. I've enjoyed a study that focuses on the basics in a refreshing way. This past week we discussed the prodigal son - or as I prefer to think of it - the story of two sons. One of the questions asked us to tell how the son's stories were similar. I immediately noticed, for the first time, that the father let both of them go. We then had a short discussion about how difficult it would be as the father to let your son go - knowing that he was probably heading for trouble. However, he let the older son go too. Yes, he was basically working in the back field, but he let him go about working in his own way. A way that was obviously disconnected from the heart of the father and his brother (as we learn at the end of the parable). One of the older members wistfully said "He will let you go" and I was struck.
How many times have I pursued my own dreams and plans in an attempt to honor God? So, he lets me go. My work looks decent and right in general - but the father knows my heart. He is calling me back to him, again. Reminding me that leaning on my own understanding is not wisdom; no matter how pious the work looks and how many people it "helps". I was working in my own strength and didn't keep close to his heart. Sometimes I even whined, like the older brother, "I am working hard here - for you - why is this happening?" In his providence, he has gently sent mentors and friends. They help me recognize that I have decided to live in the back field. They remind me that God is not seeking activity for his sake - he is interested in my heart.
His desire is for me to believe in the one he sent and stay connected to the vine. Rather than receive Christ's riches, I am relying on my own rags. Why does it feel better to work my own plan in the backyard than to rest in my father's presence? Oh wait - PRIDE! He'll let you go and look for you everyday on the horizon awaiting your return (or set out some tea if you are a backyard worker). He hasn't moved. You have chosen to believe that someone or something else is better for you. You have chosen to get your strength from another vine. We know the other vine isn't living - but it seems alive for the moment. Does it sound like setting up cisterns? It is. In short - idol worship.
I don't want to be a backyard idol worshiper -not when Abba father is sitting on the porch just waiting for me to turn around!
When I started this reflection I didn't expect this connection. My homeschooling mentor (this is her last year after 28!) said that one of her primary jobs was to teach her kids to stay connected to the vine. To help them know his father heart for them and help them to choose his ways over all others. It's about abiding, staying, making yourself at home with him - living with him day to day.
One of my past mentors always spoke about living "moment to moment with Jesus". That drove me crazy! I wanted the big picture, the plan, the "event". He was right. My friend's life and ministry are a testament to God's willingness to throw the floodgates wide open when we ask for and trust in his care for us. He's not safe but he is good.
So he will let you go - but his heart is always looking for you to return home - whether it's a long journey or a short walk. He wants to abide with you.
I am getting it. Thanks be to God!