Often life is hard, but God is always good

Archive for September, 2013

Am I the Older Brother?

Photo Credit: JL Hopgood

Photo Credit: JL Hopgood

He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me. Psalm 18:19 NIV

I was a prodigal once.  Sure, I have lived in my “Father’s House” and enjoyed His love and protection for many years, but I had to be rescued first.

I made a childhood profession of faith, but when I became a youth pastor, I left my principles and began living wild.

Looking back I can see that I experimented with another life path, thinking maybe I was missing out on something, but that direction led me to a place that was dark, heavy, and suffocating.

Although I closed my ears to friends and family who knew this was bad for me and kept on doing what I wanted, such a soul sickness set in from living a double life.

Finally, I ran back home to God.   I heartily bless all those people who prayed for me and sought me out.

I experienced first-hand this beautiful truth about the Heavenly Father: He fervently desires us to be close to Him and he actively brings us into a good place filled with love, safety, belonging, and purpose.

The parable in Luke’s gospel about the lost son includes a vivid picture of how God watches for our return:

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke15:20 NIV)

What about the other brother? He stays at home, close to the father, but his heart isn’t right – it’s cold and self-satisfied and focused on justice.

So beware the Older Brother Syndrome.  Once we are back in the fold (or maybe we never left), we can experience a dulled heart, a turning of our backs on the “outside world”.

What a temptation to build walls to keep out the undesirable effects of the darkness.  I saw it depicted in the movie World War Z.  My heart turned to ice as I watched zombies scale the wall of Jerusalem.   Do we view prodigals like that?

God certainly doesn’t!

“I know that God has not forgotten all that’s lost and broken”, sings Will Reagan in his beautiful song, “Take Back”. (Will Reagan and United Pursuit, Endless Years, United Pursuit Records, 2013 CD).

Not forgetting even means going out after those whose lives are stuck in abuse, fear, and alienation, like Jack LaPietra, the pastor of New Life in Christ Church in inner city Denver, Colorado.  He writes that this “prodigal son” parable is written also to religious leaders to underscore the tragedy that no one goes.

“The son is left to make his own way back home.  Jesus’ implication is obvious: the older brother should have gone to his father and said, ‘My younger brother’s been a fool, and now his life’s a mess.  But I’ll go look for him and bring him home.’” (“The House of Pain in the House of God”, Newsletter, May 2013.)

Pastor Jack’s church is full of “younger brothers” – returned prodigals – who go out to find their brothers.

I love the good place – the spacious place – I live in with God, but it has more than enough room for all.   “O Lord, open my arms like yours and make my feet run to meet others who are soul-sick and ready for your love.”

Why Wear Rose-Colored Glasses?

Photo credit: Derek Gavey

Photo credit: Derek Gavey

“Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me?  I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.” Psalm 116: 7, 12, 13 (NIV)

Twenty-five years of marriage feels more like a gift than an accomplishment.  God had to work with some difficult raw material (me)! So much support came from friends, counselors, family, Bible truth, and marriage books and seminars.

But one of the best ingredients in our many years of marriage are the “rose-colored glasses”.  When I place them over my vision I can see my circumstances, my husband, my past, and my future with a perfect mixture of gratitude and honesty.

I look back with chagrin at the newlywed young girl… who hid under the covers when faced with an argument.

“Hey! Where’d you go?” My new husband’s voice floated up the stairs, muffled by the comforter that I had dragged over my head. I didn’t answer him from my refuge under the covers. I felt silly, but I stayed in that suffocating space hoping he would leave me alone.

I thank God that my embarrassing behavior during our arguments drove me to the counselor’s office and that my husband was patient with me as I grew up.

I look back with compassion at the heart-sick young wife…who couldn’t conceive a child.

I truly believed I controlled things like having a baby – “Let’s just start trying and I’ll get pregnant on my timetable”, but even infertility testing and treatment didn’t go according to plan.

I thank God that He was there to catch me when during my free fall into reality and that my husband stuck with me when I was impatient and untrusting of God.

I look back with humor at the young mother…who juggled three children under the age of five (I got what I prayed for!).

It’s a wonder what we moms can do. Once I walked with my kindergarten boy down to the school bus stop while pushing the stroller with my toddler and nursing my newborn baby in the crook of my arm.

I thank God that He buoyed up my parenting insecurities and gave me a husband who was a good father.

I look back with pain at the woman married many years…who criticized everything her husband did.

I kept up a barrage of criticism in my mind and often with my words. He irritated me and I spent all my time looking at all his flaws and being defensive about my own.

I thank God that He patiently showed me my shortcomings and that my husband persevered despite my critical spirit.

I look with pride at the mother of teens…who spent years nurturing, homeschooling, and “being there” for them.

What would I have done without my husband’s willingness to work such long hours while I home schooled the kids?

I thank God that He helps me give them room to grow when I would keep them in an emotional stranglehold and that my husband continues to offer his stability and wisdom while we navigate these years.

 I look with wonder at the woman married twenty-five years… who often wears her “rose-colored glasses”.

I know full well that the man I married isn’t perfect, but I believe in true love that sees with eyes of honesty and gratitude.

God provides these “rose-colored glasses” to us as a gift.  We may humbly receive them when we arrive at that moment of need.  Reach out for them and they will appear on your palm.

Then put them on and take a look around!

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