What comes to mind when we think about ourselves?
Yesterday at church, as we spent time studying the prodigal son story, we were asked to think about this question for a moment.
The pastor went on to explain that typically we first think about what we do, or are doing, or have done. It is in this question that our hopes, our fears, our regrets and our nostalgia often live. We live our lives in the “do” world and we have this false idea that God must think about us the same way we think about ourselves. God thinks I should do more of that. God thinks I should do less of this…
Yet, as we were reminded from the beautiful illustration in Luke 15, this is not the picture we get of the Father. The Father relates to his sons in terms of simply inviting them to be with Him. No “doing” is necessary.
The younger son made the mistake of wanting to go do rather than be with His Father. When he realizes his error, he decides he will come crawling back to his dad. He believes he is no longer worthy of being with Him because of everything he has done wrong. He resolves that he will come home and humbly ask his dad if he can become a hired hand…a doer.
This is the part of the prodigal son story that chokes me up every time I read it. The Father is keeping watch. He is looking up the road and waiting for His lost son to return. And, when he finally sees him coming he runs out to meet him. Why? Did He run out to tell him, I told you so? No. Did He run out with a checklist in hand to rehash all the wrong turns his son had taken? No. He ran out to him because He simply longed to be with him again. No checklists, no chastising…just a celebration.
When the older “obedient” son gets word of this, he is furious. All his life, he has falsely believed that a relationship with his dad meant being a “doer.” Father…look at all I’ve done for You! He, my brother, has done nothing for You!
I love the Father’s answer. But you have been with me and everything I have is yours. The Father defines life as being with Him. Both sons, the reckless wanderer and the stringent rule follower struggle with the one thing the Father requests from them:
Just let Me love you!
That’s it…no strings, no doing attached.
Ironically, I’m now going to suggest you do this one thing today.
Throw the to do list you think God wants you to hold onto in the trash can. Throw it away and come back home. He is waiting to be with you.