Who we are, who God is and who we are in relationship with God? How much time could it take to explore this multifaceted question?
I propose: A lifetime. Because as important as it is, God complicated it even more by making each of us unique. Thus, your answers will most definitely go through a different process than mine and we will most probably travel on divergent paths meandering toward and away from one another at any given time and place.
If and when our paths cross at some point, we can share a moment or two of clarity and understanding. In the meantime, to get to a crossroad takes compromise and sacrifice, beginning when we realize that we can agree to disagree along the journey.
I would contend that God has made us all different, so we won’t all live in the same “little boxes, all made out of ticky-tacky, all just the same.”
I have done spiritual gifts inventories, talent-gift inventories, Meyers-Briggs inventories and a plethora of others. And some people have used an unusual tone of voice as they have said to me: “You’re really different …” I am OK with that, though I prefer “unique.”
I grew up with two younger brothers and two younger sisters. Though all of us were raised in the same environment, we are all very unique. One loves to snorkel, one speaks Chinese, one pretty much lives at flea markets, one travels the world to visit dairy farms and none of those things would fit me.
From what we know of the two Prodigal Sons (Luke 15:11-32), they were both “out of relationship” with their father. The younger was hungry for more freedom, until he had even less than what he began with. The older son wanted more attention, not realizing he had it all along.
Yet we have a grace-filled God who loved and loves us before we even know it. The younger prodigal “came to himself.” It says he intended to beg for food and a lowly job. Did he repent? All along he had only been thinking of himself. Did he have a profound religious experience? Possibly not until he realized that he was back on sure footing with his father.
What about the older brother? He also is only thinking of himself. Yet when he is also invited to the party, did he repent? All along he had only been thinking of himself. Did he have a profound religious experience? Possibly never, we don’t know.
How hungry do you have to be until you come to the party? Rev. Will Willimon said, “Wisdom is when we recognize the empty place inside for what it is. The gnawing hollowness we feel is God calling us home.”
The poet TS Elliott wrote, “The end of all of our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
“Prevenient Grace” is the grace that goes before. God’s love that is always there. We have been loved just as we are created, unique to anyone else, since long before we knew it. Our acknowledgement and acceptance of that love is the first step toward home. In recognition of that love, we can then live it out for others, so they also can know God’s love.
“Git on board little children, there’s room for many a more.” There are differences in all of God’s children.
(Verse 11) The inheritance was given to “them.” The younger spent his and now the father is giving a party out of the older son’s inheritance to celebrate the younger’s homecoming. How fair is that?
Most of us have worked hard and earned what we have. We’ve got a lot of good stuff and we deserve it. It is ours! But we need to let go of what is rightly ours in order to restore the lost brother or sister. We need to part with what is ours not just for them, but for our own joy.
It is the Christ in us. Because of our relationship with God, we even get to recognize the joy of giving. Because God loves us, we can love others.