I was thinking about reminders. Phones, laptops, calendars are all built into modern life keeping us on track to take medication, go to meeting, go to the dentist, or re-register your car (which I recently forgot to do.) Don't you wish there was a constant reminder of simple truths? Encouragement that would not get out of our faces, or lost in the blur of the day? I don't mean the canned, miniature pep-talks, or inspirational quotes we receive ad nauseam, or even the daily Bible verse that greets us when we open our browser in the morning. I'm talking about the things that cause up to stop and adjust our lives and shift our paradigms. I know for me, I find myself so far from where I want to be so often, wondering how I got there, that I could use one of those reminders pretty frequently.
Today in church, the sermon was one such reminder: God, in the face of being rejected on the whole by humanity, has not rejected us. Lets look at that for just a sec. For the sake of argument, lets assume that people, the human race, are all searching for the same thing - something that will deeply satisfy their souls. I know thats what I search for, if I boil down all my wanderings and preoccupations and confusing detours. This means that for all of us who are feeling far from God, and feeling like there is way too much between us and God to ever be or feel accepted by Him, are, whether we like it or not, accepted for who we are and who we can be.
Does this seem familiar at all? I know these words haunted me today. It is sadly a common tale, but it is also my tale. There have been and will continue to be times when I feel rejected by God. Either I'm not good enough or I've messed up too much, or I'm just not prepared to risk being let down when I find out that God really doesn't love me after all. Too many times I've believed that I need to make my own chances, because I've blown all my chances with God.
There is a story that I've been hearing since Sunday school: There were two sons that lived at home. One stayed with his father and was a dutiful son. The other demanded his inheritance and left the safety and comfort of his father's house. He ended up spending all his money on drinks, girls, and rock n' roll, ending up sitting in a pigsty, covered in mud and alone. I don't know about you but I identify with that guy. This man in the mud is so typical of me and so many other people around me: we have exhausted the avenues that we thought would make us happy, are too scared to go home, and are too ashamed to admit to ourselves that all we want is to be somewhere else with someone that won't let us down.
This is where a simple fact changes everything: God does not reject us, even when we reject Him. The prodigal son sitting in the mud suddenly hopes that he can go back home, but only as a servant in his father's house, thinking that he has fallen too far to ever be a real son to his father again. At least he'll come close to a life that seems so distant and unatainable. Again, I think I understand what's going through this guy's head, but he goes for it anyway. You probably know what happens:
“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.21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate."
Lets pause real quick and talk about the other brother for a second, the one who stayed at home. What must he have been thinking?
"‘Look!" the other brother says, "All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’" The father responds “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours." I think this brother's story is just as common, simply because the love bestowed upon him was not as instantly dramatic as that shown to the prodigal, and is hard to see sometimes. But the important thing is this: the father loved them the same.
Its so simple, but changes everything. It is also so difficult to apply this my own life. Constantly I get stuck at the part where everything I had was gone and I'm sitting in the mud, far from home. But this is something I know I share with lots of people: we are all spending our inheritance on things that don't matter and hoping they will, never realizing that the only thing that will satisfy the deepest searchings of our souls is Love; more specifically, the love of the Father. The splendor and grandeur of it was enough to make the other brother pretty jealous, even though he had it all along.
God doesn't reject us, even when we reject him or forget us when we feel forgotten by Him. Both brothers came up against a love that changed their lives forever; the kind of Love that bears remembrance. This story is not only a reminder of God's character, but also a promise from a good father to his children.